Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Rose's Costumes In Power Of The Dog Mean More Than You Think

"The Power of the Dog" is the latest film by writer-director Jane Campion ("The Piano"). The Western drama, based on Thomas Savage's 1968 novel, tells the story of Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), who run their family's ranch. Their relationship becomes strained when George courts and marries a widow and single mother, Ruth Gordon (Kirsten Dunst).

Upset by his brother's relationship with Ruth, whom he considers a gold-digger, and unable to accept his own homosexuality, Phil begins to bully Rose and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), whom he considers to be weak and effeminate. Phil's constant torment of Rose becomes the catalyst for her alcoholism which progresses to a disturbing degree throughout the film.

For a myriad of logistical reasons, Campion filmed "The Power of the Dog" in her home country of New Zealand. The director went to great lengths to replicate the desolate Montana western frontier of the 1920s. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Campion scoured an American rodeo searching for real cowboys and visited Savage's Montana ranch. Campion's attention to detail extended to her leading lady's wardrobe, which carries a deeper meaning than audiences may realize.

Rose's costumes reinforce her vulnerability

In "The Power of the Dog," Rose's gradual evolution from a prim and proper innkeeper to a woman whose appearance and demeanor is ravaged by alcohol is essential to the movie's storyline. Kirsten Dunst spoke to Vogue about how integral Rose's clothes are to making the transformation believable. "Jane [Campion] and I liked the idea of her hiding out in her bedroom in her nightgown when she's drinking too much or hungover or too scared to go out and face Phil. In those scenes, she's feeling vulnerable," Dunst said.

It was also important for Rose's wardrobe to be practical and simple because Campion and Dunst didn't want the character "to seem like a gold-digger either, like she was spending George's money in frivolous ways. That's not Rose." The "delicate rose colors" reinforced Rose's fragility and isolation as she's the only woman in the house who isn't an employee, and she's broken down by her friction with Phil and her lack of a sense of purpose and insecurities.

According to Variety, Dunst is almost guaranteed to be a contender in the 2022 Oscar race for her performance as a mother desperately trying to protect her son while living in an emotionally volatile, alcohol-induced haze. Dunst has never been nominated for an Academy Award previously.