The Homesman


Release: Friday, November 14, 2014 (limited)


Written by: Tommy Lee Jones; Kieran Fitzgerald; Wesley A. Oliver

Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones is once again a man whose greatness knows no bounds as he stars in, directs as well as helps to write and produce this quietly fierce tale about Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank).

Who’s that, you ask?

Isn’t that the million dollar question. An unusually strong, independent woman and fearless pioneer who takes it upon herself to transport three psychologically disturbed/physically abused women from various regions of the wild west, back to a proper care facility located somewhere out upon those sprawling Iowan plains — Cuddy is a societal enigma, an individual hardened by the hostility of 1850s midwestern American life and slowly withering in isolation. She is unwed. She’s introduced as someone somewhat desperate to shake the shackles of apparent spinsterhood. No man wants to be with her for her plain looks and, quote, bossiness, repel almost immediately.

Tommy Lee Jones’ George Briggs is a man with few scruples, and even fewer rules for trying to get along in this rough and tough world these characters perfectly inhabit in 2014. The contemporary release date can be confusing, for surely this is one gorgeously realized (and thus convincing) setting, affecting an instant nostalgia among the John Wayne faithful — or period film/western fans in general. That there’s someone of Jones’ stature (and dare I give it away now. . .okay I will. . .Meryl Streep’s) in supporting roles certainly helps. Streep may be less associated with the genre, but her ability to disappear inside her roles unsurprisingly serves her well here.

The Homesman is quite the traditional western. Except for the fact that it’s not. We have Indians who fiercely claim their territory, a harsh winter that lays spoil to many a homestead — William Fichtner’s Vester Belknap laments the disappearance of his corn crops and subsequently must deal with his rapidly ailing wife (who indeed becomes one of the three needing to be relocated) — and a script that heeds the reserved mannerisms, quaint colloquialisms and customs of the day.

But this is also a film set in the heart of America (as opposed to the literal ‘western’ territory) — Nebraska and Iowa primarily — and whose overtones, a mixture of darkly comic and comically bleak, tend to betray those of standard western romps. Slapstick violence doesn’t exist, though the heart-wrenching kind does. Death is a friend to many on these plains, while there is nothing quite like seeing TLJ in his pre-industrial jockstraps being smoked out of “his” home by a bunch of spurned settlers. He’ll soon be lynched on horseback (sounds confusing, I know) for jumping on another man’s land, so that smile won’t last. A valid argument could be made for The Homesman‘s tonal bipolarity. One minute it’s deadly serious; the next it moves the viewer to fits of giggles.

With Jones in the director’s chair, however, all is most certainly not lost. Hardly a thing is. Save for logic towards the end. The Homesman ends on a very, very strange note. And while I will maintain my promise to not ruin things here, I must comment on Jones’ decision-making at this juncture. (Like, what the hell man?!) Or, translated professionally: there are some baffling choices made at the 11th hour. Are they enough to abandon The Homesman in unfamiliar territory? Not quite. Are they apparent enough to cause a directorially-illiterate viewer (a.k.a. me) to notice? You bet your buffalo hide.

This latest effort from director TLJ finds the craftsman working respectfully — dutifully reminding us that while modern living is no breeze, we might just have it a little easier than those growing up on the frontier.


3-5Recommendation: Packed with reliably sturdy performances and fascinating characters — I think the trio of sick women are going to be criminally overlooked here — The Homesman finds strength in being not quite like the others. Fans of the cast and steadily absorbing narratives need apply.

Rated: R

Running Time: 122 mins.

Quoted: “Are you an angel?”

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29 thoughts on “The Homesman

  1. Pingback: The 2014 DigiBread Awards | digitalshortbread

  2. I got the screener for this a month ago and I didn’t haven’t had time to watch it. I really want to though. Everyone is raving about Hilary Swank in this.


    • Swank is great. I regret re-reading what I have written and realizing how little I dmentioned her. She’s fantastic, arguably superior to her directorial co-star


  3. I heard it was two-thirds a good movie and one-third not so good. I loved Jones’ first movie behind the camera so I’ll be seeing this for sure. Splendid, Tom, splendid.


    • I would have to whole-heartedly agree with that assessment. However, the two-thirds that are solid are very very solid. I really dug what TLJ was doing here. But I have to acknowledge the film definitely loses it towards the end. It’s quite a bizarre sequence of events. Hope you dig it man if you can find it soon enough Mark. 🙂


  4. Tommy Lee is looking…old. I suppose he is though! I haven’t given this much of a look yet, but you make it sound like it may be worth it. I love Westerns and even though this isn’t exactly the stereotypical Western, it sounds like it might be close enough!


    • Dude yeah he’s ancient by now. It might actually help that he was surrounded by dirt here. Lol, that was too mean. Whoops.

      If Westerns do it for you, I see no reason to avoid The Homesman, unless of course your local theaters want to be a douche and not show it. It’s been a very limited release here, won’t be around K-town for much longer. And that really ticks me off. The same theater that held ‘Mud’ here for like 3 months. (Nothing against ‘Mud’ or McConaughey of course, but 3 months is way too long man)

      Hope you enjoy man.


    • Hey Chris! With this being I believe the first “proper” western film (I’m not including A Million Ways to Die in the West in that category I’m afraid lol) on the blog, I was quite pleased to say I had myself a great time.

      There are elements here that take it almost out of the very traditional, hard western category, but there’s no denying at its core that’s what this picture is. I quite liked it. TLJ is always worth watching, right? 🙂


    • I like to think of it less as a western (even though that’s clearly what it is) and more as a film with TLJ and Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank in a western setting. Haha. Not exactly sure how that’s different, but there’s something most certainly. . . .different about this one. The Homesman is certainly a quiet affair, but it also has some good moments. I’d encourage at least one viewing at some point. 🙂


      • Ah then I’m more inclined to see it actually and I like that it’s a quiet affair, a good counter to all the explosive blockbusters out there.


    • The Homesman has you taken care of in that case Cindy! It’s most definitely a modest little production but it’s got great cinematography, acting and an interesting story that doesn’t adhere to ‘true’ westerns. I am glad I went to see it! 🙂

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    • Yep, strange is right. TLJ cracked me up, Hilary Swank was great and this was a beautifully-shot movie. All in all, I went home very happy (and happy I live in 21st Century America).


  5. From the reviews I’ve read it sounds like WatchingThe Homesman is an experience akin to eating a tumbleweed sandwich, with a splash of cayenne pepper thrown into the mix.


    • A very interesting description. Hm……when I’ve eaten my first tumbleweed sandwich I will be able to say for sure whether or not I agree. . . lol! It is an interesting flick, I recommend it.


    • I quite enjoyed myself Keith. It’s definitely a peculiar picture, though. I won’t lie. Still worth it for TLJ, Streep and a rousing performance from Swank. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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