“The Homesman” is not your typical western. The film opens with Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) plowing a field in Nebraska. It is the early 1850’s and the film initially focuses on Mary Bee in all her uniqueness in a small farming community. She’s single, self-supporting, and wants a husband. We learn how lonely and devastating life is for most women living on the frontier. In fact, three women have become mentally ill and need to be returned to civilization which is, Iowa.
Mary Bee is the person who will take the women to Iowa because no one else in the community appears willing or capable of handling the multi-week journey. Shortly before her journey begins, Mary Bee meets the Tommy Lee Jones character, George Briggs, who is sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck and the rope tied to a tree. She saves Briggs from the hanging and extracts his promise to help her take the women to Iowa.
Once the journey begins, the bleakness of the journey and the landscape becomes fully developed. Tommy Lee Jones directs this 120 minute movie, based upon the book. There are surprises and I won’t comment further, but John Lithgow plays the reverend who organizes the trip; Meryl Streep is the Iowa minister’s wife; and James Spader does a short but memorable scene – as only Spader is able to do — and you will remember his character.
The film plays out as a critique of virtually every female character in any western movie you’ve ever seen. Swank’s performance could result in another Oscar nomination for her. Jones is also superb but, like Bill Murray in St. Vincent, Briggs is a character Jones has done many times before. Rodrigo Prieto may receive a nomination for cinematography. I recommend this film.
Steven Guttman, Esq.