Benedict Cumberbatch Eyes Oscar Race as ‘Power of the Dog’ Gets Four-Minute Standing Ovation at Venice

In recent years, the Venice Film Festival has become a launching pad for the Oscars, particularly as the Academy has added more international members to its voting body.

On Thursday afternoon in Italy, Netflix scored a four-minute standing ovation for what could be one of its stronger awards contenders this year, Jane Campion’s period drama “The Power of the Dog.”

As the crowd inside the Sala Grande cheered, Campion embraced stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst in a group hug. And as the applause continued, Cumberbatch removed his mask and took a bow for the adoring crowd.

“The Power of the Dog,” based on the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, tells the story of a 1920s Montana farmer named Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch), who stews in anger over the marriage of his brother George (Jesse Plemons) to his new bride Rose (Kristen Dunst).

Dunst arrived at the carpet first, followed by Cumberbatch and Campion, who affectionately started the afternoon premiere with a hug in front of the flashing cameras. The trio launched the press tour for the film in Venice, talking to reporters at a press conference earlier in the day — where Campion spoke about Netflix giving her the biggest budget she’s ever received to make a movie.

The movie is an acting showcase for Cumberbatch, who was nominated for an Oscar for 2014’s “The Imitation Game,” and seems to be giving a performance that could have been born from a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. The same goes for Dunst, whose character is expanded from the book to have a more dramatic arc as a shy woman struggling to fit into her husband’s family.

The Venice Film Festival launched on Wednesday night with COVID-19 protocols in place and the premiere of “Parallel Mothers,” which received a five-minute standing ovation for director Pedro Almodovar and star Penelope Cruz.

Following Venice, “The Power of the Dog” will screen at the Telluride Film Festival.

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