Runtime: 122 Mins
What To Expect: Surprisingly enjoyable True Grit-style tale with beautiful visuals
Little House on the Prairie. That’s what I was privately expecting from The Homesman having looked at the trailers, synopsis and stills. I was very wrong on that. This is Tommy Lee Jones’ second attempt at directing a western. The first was the sleepy and not overly impressive The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada in 2005. This one is all kinds of superior as a movie overall. Cast, directing, writing, acting… you name it. An old fashioned western.
The Homesman sees Hillary Swank transport three psychotic women across country to the nuthouse, that would be an 1800’s preacher’s wife’s private house. The road however is rife with all manner of threats. Early in her journey Swank saves varmant Tommy Lee Jones from a hanging, to which he owes her a duty of escorting her across badlands to the safety of New York. Jones obliges, for 300 dollars, mind, and so begins a rough trek with three nuts in a locked horse carriage through Injun and outlaw territory in the dead of winter.
The Homesman is a beautiful movie and Jones is some kind of director. In the commentary for Die Hard, John McTiernan mused that every shot, no matter how inane, should have something special going on visually. This movie is coated with atmosphere through visuals and dense sound. Jones makes this movie look and sound $100 million dollars and every scene has something unique about it. It’s also not some slow and washy drama, rather it has a black humored realist Coens-style tone that keeps the whole thing moving along nicely. The cast of worthy cameos works well too and maybe James Spader’s Irish hotel owner’s scenes shared with Jones steal the movie.
The movie may appeal to feminists at first, with the initial swagger of the female co-lead, and in fact I’d feared that this was the underlying subtext that was coming for the next two hours. But reality soons bites as the movie demonstrates the vital role of a man among women. Like in an old John Wayne yarn, Jones protects the four women from the elements. Hunting food for them to eat and hunting men that are threats, or deserve what’s coming. It probably gets away with this as a Hollywood production because of its historical setting and as liberals are always at pains to tell us, they accept things were different only in the past. Gender differences do not change. Fact.
The weaker elements of this movie are that it could be interpreted as a mite too long, for some at least. I think it could be argued that up to 15 minutes could’ve been cut. Marco Beltrami, I’m sad to say, also lets yet another movie down. Unforgettable music seems to be a staple of this man’s career for my liking, if not bad music overall. For the most part anyway, a recent exception of his being World War Z.
The Homesman is in the same tonal universe as Appaloosa, True Grit (the remake especially) and sometimes, dare I say it, Unforgiven. It’s a fine western. Okay, maybe not Unforgiven…