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The Homesman – Movie Review – V2.0

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The Homesman – Movie Review by Frances Winston

Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, Meryl Streep, James Spader, John Lithgow

In cinemas November 21st

Based on Glendon Swarthout’s 1988 novel of the same name, which was voted the Best Western novel of that year, this adaptation sees Tommy Lee Jones take on the dual role of director and star and he also co-produced and co-wrote the film. In short he is all over this. He plays George Briggs a claim jumper who is hired by local spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) to help her transport three insane women from Nebraska back home to Iowa. As the mismatched pair make their way across country with the three unfortunate women they get to know each other better and Cuddy eventually makes an advance to Briggs which ends in tragedy but despite this there is still a job to be done and the women must be delivered safely and soundly to the home of Minister Carter and his wife Altha (Streep).

This sports a fine cast and it is clearly relying on the strength of their talents to keep the audience engaged as there is not a huge amount of plot. It is basically a Western road trip with a shock twist thrown in halfway through to ensure you are paying attention. Unfortunately many of the cast appear lost with the very wordy script and thin premise and at times the movie is a bit of a muddle. The real star here is actually the vast and unrelenting Nebraska landscape that they must traverse on their journey and the cinematography is stunning. This doesn’t detract from the fact that there are serious pacing issues with this though. It is as if Jones has decided to mosey through the story rather than canter but it remains in mosey mode throughout never really picking up and it is difficult to maintain interest and engagement with it.

While the story is indeed a thin premise it had the potential to be an interesting one. After all we rarely see stories about the women of the West or how uprooting from established towns to the harsh frontiers really affected them (in this case driving three of them mad) but once Lee enters the picture the story becomes more about him than the ladies. Although Swank initially turns in a good performance as the strong and dignified Bee once they hit the road it is as if she undergoes a seismic shift and her character loses a lot of her gravitas.

This is a serious film with serious actors and on paper it should be excellent but it never quite hits the mark. It has moments of genius but all in all it feels like a bit of a mish mash. Western’s have struggled to find audiences in recent years – hence there are so few of them being made – and this definitely isn’t going to buck the trend. Watchable but the two hour running time feels like a lot longer and it is definitely only a one time viewing.

 

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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