Wednesday, December 10, 2014

[Review] The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones directs and acts in The Homesman, an at times subversive Western tale set in 1850s Nebraska. Along with Jones, the film has a significant cast: Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Todd from Breaking Bad. It's an uneven excursion that provokes indifference, while its merits show signs that there's an excellent film in there somewhere.

Right away, you'll notice the gorgeous frontier shots, and the pretty string-driven score. But it swiftly
delves into starkness with some horrific scenes that display the frailty of human life in the West. Let's just say it's a little different from Seth MacFarlane's slapstick One Million Ways to Die in the West.

Mary (Swank) is a lone woman living in a tiny pioneer village. During a town meeting, a preacher (Lithgow) presents the task of transporting three sick women back across the country so they can be with their families. Much to everyone's surprise, Mary assertively volunteers to take them. Shortly after she sets out in a trade wagon, she happens upon George (Jones), and he pledges his service when Mary saves his life.

"Your journey will be long, difficult, and dangerous," the preacher says as his last words to Mary. And he's right. But along with the riveting moments of this journey is a lot of dullness and head-scratching. There's a solid, if bizarre first two thirds and then it falters to its end after a certain turning point. Swank and Jones give top-notch performances (would you expect anything else?), and there's an interesting dynamic between the two, but I hate to say it--the film falls of the wagon.

At one point, a young girl (Steinfeld) tells George, "You're a strange man." And he responds with, "I expect I am." That pretty much sums it up.


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