For Your Consideration: The Homesman
‘The Homesman is a period piece set in Nebraska Territory in the 1850s. It was written and directed by Tommy Lee Jones, who also stars in the film along with Hilary Swank and a cast of seasoned actors, including a brief cameo by Meryl Streep.
The Midwestern saga begins with a Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank), an unmarried, self-sufficient farmer, who is active in her church. She knows she needs a husband, but most local men find her bossy and plain, and they prefer to journey back east to find a bride. Three local men who have brought their brides to Nebraska territory have found themselves in a bad place. Their brides can’t handle the dusty, baron, and isolated life style, and go insane. These men go to the church and ask the church to arrange a “homesman” to take the ill ladies back east to be with their families, as they can no longer care for them. None of the men in the town are up for the task, but Mary Bee Cuddy is sure she can do it. The townspeople, having no better option, allow Cuddy to take these ladies the many miles to the east. Shortly before she is ready to leave she spots a man sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck, whimpering for the horse not to move. The man turns out to be George Briggs, (Jones) who has taken claim to a local man’s house while he is away, and the townspeople have taken it upon themselves to hang him for the crime. She bargains with him before cutting him down, and Briggs accepts her offer in exchange for his life. Here is where their journey really begins.
Jones gives his usual salty-old-man-finds-a-heart performance. Jones is clearly a big fan of John Wayne, because the movie feels like a John Wayne remake. His character is a blend of Wayne and Lee Marvin. Very much like a dark version of True Grit meets Cat Ballou—minus any humor.
Swank does a great job, and we believe she is this hard-as-nails, God-fearing woman. Should have been more of Swank and less of Jones. As for Streep’s character, well, if you blink you will miss her performance altogether.
If you’re longing for a good American western, which not many people are, and you can’t find a John Wayne western on any of the Netflix, this movie will fill the void.
Rating: 3 Stars