Life in the early days of pioneer life was harsh and unforgiving. The loneliness and desperation to make things work was enough to drive people to either do anything they could, or go mad trying. The glimpses of frontier life in Tommy Lee Jones’ new film, The Homesman, are honestly terrifying to imagine.
The story focuses on Mary Bee Cuddy (played by Hilary Swank), a woman who lives alone in a small pioneer town, who volunteers to take three women who’ve lost their minds back to a city where they can be taken care of. Each of the women’s husbands are supposedly incapable of caring for them, though as the story goes on, the truth about these men becomes more and more awful.
Cuddy finds help in the form of a man named George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), and the two of them set off across the frontier with nothing but the three women, a wagon, some horses, and two guns.
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Release Date: November 14 2014
The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones’ second feature film as a director. It’s always interesting to see when an actor decides to branch out and try another aspect of film making. Sometimes it’s a massive failure, sometimes it’s a success. In this case, I’d call it a success. This film is not a typical gun-slinging fast pace western. It’s a quiet, lonely tale about people who are forced to rely on each other in extraordinary circumstances. Jones handles the emotional nuances of the story well, while also making sure things don’t feel like they’re dragging.
Hilary Swank is easily the star of this film. There are a lot of questions about Mary Bee Cuddy that go unanswered, but I found that I didn’t mind that. Swank portrays an independent woman in a time when such a thing was pretty scandalous, but at the same time, it’s clear that her character does want some sort of companionship. We just never really know why she can’t find it.
Not only did Tommy Lee Jones direct, co-write, and produce this film, he also starred in it. His performance is pretty typical from him; he’s good at crusty old men. Hilary Swank pretty much outshines him, but I did like their interaction.
The two cameos in The Homesman include Meryl Streep and James Spader. Streep plays a preacher’s wife at the end of the film and is lovely as always. My favorite part of this movie involved James Spader, who plays an innkeeper who refuses to let Briggs and company stay the night.
Loneliness seems to be the major theme of The Homesman. The three women Cuddy is charged with each are on their own in different ways, and George Briggs starts out alone and ends up alone, as well. Cuddy, of course, is the one who truly suffers from loneliness the most. The three women are so far gone they’re unaffected, and Briggs seems to prefer being on his own. But Cuddy puts on a strong face for her companions, even though on the inside, she may be hurting just as badly as the women she’s helping.
If you go into this movie expecting a traditional action-packed western, you will be disappointed. There are a few suspenseful moments, but all in all, it’s more of a character study than it is a gun-toting adventure. The one actual fight in the film is clumsy and is basically just two guys rolling around on the ground, but I feel like that’s more realistic than a lot of the badass fights other western movies have.
All in all, I enjoyed The Homesman. It isn’t a feel-good movie, and it certainly doesn’t have a ton of action, but it left me with a respect for what people who lived in the frontier had to go through.