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  • I need to get something off my chest: I'm not a fan of Tommy Lee Jones. I find him limited in range, much the same in most roles and, worst of all, he inexplicably won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Fugitive, thus depriving Pete Postlethwaite for In the Name of the Father, Leonardo Di Caprio for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Ralph Fiennes for his performance of pure evil as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. In modern parlance, WTF?

    But periodically, just occasionally, once in a while, he inhabits the screen in a manner that forces one to reconsider one's judgment. And so it is with The Homesman.

    The Homesman is something of a surprise, and not just because Tommy Lee Jones is on remarkable form in it. Beyond a fine performance, the man writes, directs and co-produces it. Hell's bells, when did he become so damn good at everything?

    In the bad old days of the pioneers in the Wild West, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) steps in when three women drift into various states of madness and need to be transported across the country to be cared for properly. Shunned by their husbands, denied help from the town's menfolk and at a time where rape and murder hides behind every outcrop of rock and every gnarled cactus, Cuddy sets off alone on her hazardous journey. She stumbles across George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), a drifter seated atop his horse, with a noose around his neck, waiting for his steed to grow bored and leave him hanging. Literally. Cuddy offers to save him on the condition that he accompanies her and so begins a particular kind of journey.

    The Homesman is probably described by many as a western, but that's lazy. This is a road movie on horseback, a saunter across the plains, a journey through mistrust and emotions where a mistake or misplaced trust will result in death. It is a story of hope and love, not the romantic kind, but real love for one's fellow human being, regardless of whether they can, or will, reciprocate.

    Shot beautifully with sprawling, dusty vistas that warm the heart and prickle the nape, the backdrop is a vast canvas of character and mystery upon which splashes of colour are smeared in the shape of wandering, human dangers.

    Though they say little, the trio of women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonja Richter) are far more than peripheral characters or the MacGuffin; they are the substance that binds The Homesman and the reason for the drama, gentle though it is. As we saw in Mr. Turner, such characters can so easily become pantomime animals with over performance that slaps the viewer in the face and detracts from the whole, of which they are but a small part. Not so here. Grace Gummer, particularly, as the mostly mute but vacantly animated Arabella is terrific and we want to reach into the screen and gently push her back towards sanity. It is a beautiful, understated performance that remains in mind long after the event.

    Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank make a surprising double act but the chemistry is there in abundance. Both Cuddy and Briggs carry their own needs and daemons with them; neither would give the other a second glance ordinarily but circumstance prompts odd, emotional couplings and theirs is fraught with suspicion and obligation. It is fantastic to see Swank back to the form that brought her gongs and made us sit up and watch in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby. This is a far less demonstrative performance, but no less steely or impactful because of it.

    Tommy Lee Jones's performance is the most compelling, engrossing that I can recall. Beyond that, his direction is worth celebrating loudly. The Homesman is only his second feature as director (after 2006's wonderful but little seen The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) but there are hints that he may step into Clint Eastwood's shoes alongside Ben Affleck and Sean Penn. Just when we think we have the measure of this tale, he belts us sharply around the jowls, proving he has the mettle to surprise and shock us out of our complacency.

    Maybe, after years and years of apparently coasting, broodily on film and staring into space, it will transpire he was merely absorbing, waiting for the moment to own both sides of the screen and captivate us.

    You know what, maybe he's always been this good but I just didn't see it.

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  • The Homesman, about a 31 year old (un-married/childless) woman (Hilary Swank) who takes up the challenge of bringing three crazed women across the Nebraska plains over five weeks with the help of a deserter-drifter left for dead (Jones), is in some ways meant to be a real Feminist Western (with a capital 'F'), and not in the way that a silly work like The Quick and the Dead was with Sharon Stone. Here, it's much more about depicting a time and place that was quite bleak and desolate and, in some spaces, without much hope. Ultimately Tommy Lee Jones, through the novel it's based on, sees a little more light at the end of the tunnel for his protagonist than, say, Eastwood did in Unforgiven. But it's a combination of things it's about, and emotionally the film does work quite well, in particular in the relationship that unfolds between the two leads.

    If you're curious to see a western that has the love of the plains of the West visually speaking ala Ford, but has the dark contours of someone like Mann - and added to that those super dirty production designs and character realizations from Spaghetti Westerns - this might be it, at least up to a point. It's so unrelentingly dark in how it looks on at the deteriorating mental states of these women, and the desperation in the journey for Jones and Swanks' characters, that the few moments of humor are rather surprising - and welcome - especially when Jones first appears to Swank on the noose and the horse. It's the kind of scene that shows this actor, well into his 60's and pushing 70, trying something new in a performance (if only for a scene or two).

    It's got a cast that is practically distracting for the who's who that shows up, mostly for one scene a piece: James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Lithgow, William Fichtner, Meryl Streep (!) and Hailee Steinfeld (who appears almost to have wandered from the True Grit set to this one). There's so much going for the Homesman that it's a shame the script is uneven, and there's a plot twist two thirds of the way through that is sort of explained but not at all at the same time, and it leaves the film with a gaping tragedy that can never quite be filled. Interestingly, if you watch the behind the scenes on the blu-ray one of the screenwriters mentions the book left things unexplained as well. That might be fine in the book - or perhaps more was explained in other ways - but it still doesn't work, and what Jones goes for in awe-inspiring shots he leaves behind with some muddled story beats.

    Nevertheless, The Homesman is a good Western, a solid western digging into the roots of the genre and mixing the unsavory and horrifying (not like a horror movie, just some repellant images at times, but for a point), though whether one will want to return to it like other, better Westerns is another story. It's the kind of picture I can't put down for its artistry, even if things can be looked at more critically, which may explain why it didn't find its way through the End-of-Awards-time (albeit it was accepted at Cannes).
  • Tommy Lee Jones has a wry, dry character -- rich and deep as unwatered open plains of the Americas. He's transferred his particular personality power to the story of The Homesman. He's successfully created a fine work of "auteur cinema" (much as I personally think this form rarely exists).

    The Homesman is an emotionally and powerful, idea-rich, almost humorless story -- with an immense amount of humor. It has very tight, economic tale telling with no fat on the bone; in which much is implied, historical accuracy hits its target by nuance, and the story itself is deeply respectful of an intelligent audience.

    The Homesman is not "entertainment" in the haha, shoot-'em-up Western sense. It's realism committed to a moral cause -- criticism of the disenfranchised, the homeless, the people who cannot make it no matter how hard they try. It has a brilliant sense of time and place that tells the life stories of dozens of hard-enduring, long-suffering "forgotten men" -- the women no less than the men.

    The key heartbreaker is Hilary Swank's character of Miss Mary Bee Cuddy. She's born into a Western frontier world where she and everyone else believes and practices that "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Hard workers and decent people. But tragically that is not enough. Why? The Homesman leaves that question deliciously unanswered. Life is not fair. God is not just.

    Beautifully The Homesman does -- kind of -- answer life's problems with the value of sheer vitality and gutsiness itself. Thus that key visual motif in the movie that comes from: George Caleb Bingham, "The Jolly Flatboatmen". We must dance the dance of life, however mad.
  • 'THE HOMESMAN': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

    Tommy Lee Jones directed, co-wrote and stars in this western/drama film (set in the 1850s midwest) about a 'spinster' and a 'drifter' transporting three women, driven mad by the hardships of the time, across the country. It costars Hilary Swank, Miranda Otto, Grace Gummer and Sonja Richter. It also features cameos by Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, William Fichtner and Hailee Steinfeld. The film was written by Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley Oliver and it's based on the 1988 novel, of the same name, by Glendon Swarthout. French filmmaker Luc Besson served as a producer of the movie and it also features a breathtaking music score by Marco Beltrami. It's surprisingly dark, and extremely disturbing, but I enjoyed it due to it's strong character development, outstanding performances and odd beauty.

    Swank plays Mary Bee Cuddy, a strong and independent 31-year-old woman from New York. She desperately wants to find a husband but can't, due to men finding her too plain looking (I don't think Swank looks bad at all in this movie, considering the film's time and setting). When the local reverend (Lithgow) asks for someone to transport three women across the country, to a church in Hebron Iowa, Cuddy volunteers. The women (Otto, Gummer and Richter) are all mentally ill and the church will provide the special help they need. Cuddy comes across a drifter named George Briggs (Jones), who's about to be lynched for 'claim jumping', and asks him for his help (in return for saving his life). The two make the long journey together and form an odd bond.

    The movie has been called a 'feminist western', by many, and I'd definitely agree it's a strong female character study, about the hardships women faced at the time. Swank is outstanding in the co- lead and Jones is just as classic and tough as ever; he does (unintentionally I think) steal some of the female cast's thunder. Jones also proves he's an equally talented director (once again) and the movie is full of beautiful visuals, as well as haunting imagery. For me the highlight of the film is the beautiful music and the touching relationships formed by the movie's central characters (it also has a shocking and unexpected twist, at the end of the second act). It's a hard film to watch, at times, but definitely worth it; if you're a fan of the genre or even if you're not.

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  • I really liked the western "The Homesman", but I strongly suspect that it won't be to everyone's taste. And I will admit that even this die hard fan of westerns didn't find it a perfect movie. The opening thirty minutes of the movie, for one thing, are somewhat confusing with some details, though eventually everything comes together and the audience knows what's been going on. And after that first thirty minutes, the movie continues to test the patience of viewers by being quite slow moving and long (the movie is over two hours long.) But I stuck with the movie despite all those things, and I feel I was rewarded in the end. The atmosphere of the movie feels extremely authentic, showing many of the hardships life in the wild west gave many people. Though the story is slow-moving, there are a number of interesting vignettes along the way. And you probably won't predict what eventually happens - the major plot turn around the two-thirds mark really took me by surprise. The last scene is a little unclear as to where one of the characters is headed, but it is memorable all the same. As I said, the movie is not for all tastes, but western fans who are in a patient mood will likely embrace it despite its flaws.
  • 3xHCCH19 December 2014
    December 19, 2014

    A homesman is someone tasked to bring people back to their homes. In this film, the people that needed safe transport are three mentally- disturbed women. Mary Bee McCuddy, a plain but hardy spinster, volunteered to be their homesman. Along the way, she rescues a old man Thomas Briggs from being hung by vigilantes and conscripts him to help her with her mission in exchange for saving his life. Together, they gather the three ladies and escort them from Nebraska homes across the dangerous Midwest prairie to a safe haven in Iowa.

    Hilary Swank is an actress who had already won a couple of Oscars for playing strong women who had taken on masculine roles in life -- Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry" and Maggie Fitzgerald in "Million Dollar Baby". As Mary Bee McCuddy, a pioneer lady who bravely accepts a task only men are expected to do, Swank again goes on the same award-baiting path. The movie worked so well when Swank was on screen. She was absolutely compelling in this offbeat role as if this was written with her in mind. The movie was not the same when her character was not there.

    Tommy Lee Jones is one actor who, as of late, had seemingly been confined to playing curmudgeonly and cantankerous old men, and his Briggs here is not any different. This film is only Jones' second directorial effort since his critically-acclaimed debut in "Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" back in 2005. As director, he was very generous to his lead female star Swank, and always gave way to let her shine. As actor, he does consistently as he is expected but this role of a grumpy old outlaw seems too familiar for him already. He wisely played Briggs with some self-deprecating humor to break the tendency of the story to become monotonously bleak.

    There were some remarkable cameos from other award-winning or nominated stars in much smaller roles. John Lithgow is his usual capable self playing the Reverend Dowd who reluctantly sends McCuddy off on her task. Hailee Steinfeld plays 16-year old Tabitha Hutchinson to whom Briggs offers a surprising proposal. James Spader, in his usual over-the-top style, plays condescending hotel owner Aloysius Duffy. And last, but definitely not the least, none other than THE Meryl Streep plays perfectly kind and hospitable Altha Carter, who runs the institution in Iowa the women are headed for. These actors appear on screen for only ten minutes or so, but they leave a lasting impression.

    The narrative may have been slow and desolate . However, the unusual situations, disturbing imagery, startling story developments and committed performances by the cast all keep our attention riveted. The cinematography with the muted colors worked well with the windswept landscape of its setting, as much a character in itself. The costumes and production design rang true to its mid-19th century time period. The haunting and unsettling musical score create an atmosphere of bitter emptiness. The insufferably miserable topic is clearly not for everyone. But for those who decide to give it a chance, the rewards will be satisfying. 7/10.
  • pcrawake23 September 2014
    The Homesman, written and directed and starring Tommy Lee Jones tells the story of Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) a spinster who takes on the responsibility of bringing three insane women to Iowa where they can be taken care of.

    She saves or spares the life of George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) and enlists him on her arduous five week journey.

    When you see Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones, you know the acting is going to be stellar. The parts of the insane women, Arabella Sours (Grace Gummer), Theoline Belknapp (Miranda Otto), Gro Svendsen (Sonja Richter) because of the great directing remained the focus while being secondary characters. The movie had a Shakespearean feel to it and that is a great compliment. These ladies portrayed insanity, believably and that takes serious dedication and acting ability.

    "The Homesman" was a tragedy and because of it, some people might not be able to pallet the story; there were some shocking attention grabbing scenes that the average viewer might not be prepared for. Those scenes, to me, were great examples of a different time, a time when life was hard and people died.

    The Homesman is a story that sits with you and makes you thankful for many things, even if it just the shoes on your feet.
  • Given that three women in the Nebraska Territory all went raving mad at the same time (maybe it was the Danish rye bread), this tale grabs us immediately with its starkness, bitterness and coldness, not to mention lack of compassion. Tommy Lee Jones as a drunken old reject is right on the mark. Hillary Swank is no longer a sexy young gal, rather a bitter lonely hard-working single woman trying to eke out a living in the unforgiving wilderness. Every scene, every moment is captivating. You may not even like what you're seeing, but you can't stop watching. Somehow, even though I thought three mad women at one time seemed contrived, I had to accept that it was just that way. Shortly after getting organized, the film turns into a road picture, but what a road, or lack thereof. Jones, Swank and the three locas have to traverse empty countryside, facing drought, Indians, hunger, privation of every kind, for at least five weeks to get to a place where a kindly preacher's wife (Meryl Streep, as usually so immersed in this small part that you just know she's really a long-suffering preacher's wife) has promised to care for them. Developer James Spader too has only a few brief moments to do his thing, but it's unforgettable. When my granddaughter was small, we used to watch films together. Sometimes when we watched a film she really really liked, (think Zoot Suit), she'd burst out crying at the end. I'd ask, "Why are you crying, Baby Girl?" and she'd say, "Because I didn't want it to be over." I felt this way about The Homesman. I didn't want it to be over. I had lots more questions and things I'd like to see resolved. What happened to the hotel and town development? What happened to the man (William Fichtner, always a pleasure) and his two little girls? What happened to the crazy women and whatever happened to Briggs (Jones)? A sad cold story, but one you just can't walk away from.
  • My mother was born in a sod house on the prairie of North Dakota and my grandmother was the town mid-wife and abortionist. Homesteading was hard and demanding and Tommy Lee Jones has captured the the gut-level struggle that came with 160 acres and the nearest neighbor five or ten miles away. It drove those without an iron will to insanity. If you are looking for a shoot-um-up western, this is NOT it, but if you love the history of the frontier, and want to get a feel for its tragedy and day to day fight for survival, this is a great movie. Beautifully filmed, expertly acted, wonderfully scripted, I could not have asked for more. I have never liked Hillary Swank, but this was an incredible performance. Tommy Lee Jones was his beautifully curmudgeoned self. I especially liked the accurate use of period firearms and I will not quibble over the availability of 1851 36 caliber paper cartridges in end of the earth Nebraska Territory nor Ms Swank having a wardrobe of new dresses through out the film. The film accurately captured the ethos of the western prairie and gave me a look and a feel into my own grandparents. Thank you Tommy Lee Jones for a classic.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Homesman left me with some mixed feelings. I really liked the idea and theme of this movie, but certain aspects of the storytelling are just ridiculous.

    The story takes place in 1850s Nebraska where a small community of homesteaders decides to send three mad women to a home in Iowa. Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), a seemingly strong and independent spinster, volunteers for the task of transporting these women. Along the way she meets George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), a scruffy-looking drifter and claim jumper, whom she rescues from certain death and subsequently recruits to help her complete the journey.

    Homesman presents the viewer with rather depressing yet captivating tale of pioneering existence and hardships with particular focus on women. It's obviously something that you don't see very often in an average western.

    The main issue with the film is that it suddenly loses momentum by switching its focus from Mary Bee Cuddy onto George Briggs. It's strange because Briggs is inherently far less interesting character than Cuddy; and by essentially promoting him from support role to the lead role, the film undermines its own feminist vibe. As a result the final 30 or so minutes feel like rather lengthy and pointless epilogue. It should be noted that this happens in the novel as well, so in that regard the film stays true to it. Yet it still doesn't make much sense to me.

    Another minor issue with the movie can be attributed to the character of Mary Bee. The reason for her personal drama is extremely implausible. The idea that a successful, hard-working woman -- a woman capable of childbearing -- had trouble finding husband due to being "plain" looking, is quite frankly silly. This is almost the exact opposite of what was really going on in that specific period. The fact that many people lost their minds due to harsh conditions is true, but ironically, that is the same reason why someone like Mary Bee could've never been single for long.

    In short, Homesman is a movie that gets period ambiance right, but produces a rather disjointed story with bizarre twist. It is still something that is worth watching, in my opinion. Both Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank deliver very impressive performances.
  • The story behind this movie is so engaging that it is a perfect platform for good performances and none of the players disappoints. Hilary Swank has never been better: tough but kind-hearted, determined but vulnerable. Tommy Lee Jones is at his salty, rough-edged, believable best. Since Mr. Jones also directed the film it is not just his rugged pioneer character that creates the authenticity of this portrait the Plains sod-busters in pre-statehood Nebraska. From the opening scene your senses are immersed in the grit, hunger, muscle-ache and the incessant wind of this stark place that always seems to be on the edge of disaster. The casting was impeccable, down to the smallest role and especially for the non-speaking parts (that will make more sense once you've seen the film.) I don't think the movie is without flaws. There is one scene that I felt was unnecessary and presented the male lead (Jones) out of character. If not for that I would have rated this beautiful, riveting movie a 10.
  • Riveting film about a spinster , a drifter and a peculiar promise , being slickly developed by actor-director Tommy Lee Jones . Starring Hilary Swank returns to the heights of a career that saw her win two Best Actress Oscars by the age of 30 . This is her most recent film , The Homesman in which she starred opposite Tommy Lee Jones , John Lithgow , Meryl Streep , James Spader , among others . Here Tommy Lee Jones's acting and direction are magnificent and remaining cast is pretty well , giving terrific performances . This above average film concerns about a pious , independent-minded woman called Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is assigned by the village priest (John Lightow) to carry three women (Miranda Otto , Sonja Richter , and Grace Gummer , Meryl's Streep daughter) who have been driven mad by pioneer life . They have to be transported across the country by a covered wagon . The two-fisted woman obstinately carries out the dangerous assignment and in turn employs low-life drifter George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) to assist her . She forces the drifter for to a journey across the plains to locate the risked destination . Both of whom are determined to find the paths , through the prairies plagued by savage Indians , until the easy civilization . This journey will bring forward the stark contrast between the values of two ways of life and the landscape transversed is both geographical and emotional .

    This enjoyable film is a touching and violent Western drama with elevated cinematographic values . The movie realizes an awesome actors reunion , showing the different characters and explores their apprehension , ambitions , fears and circumstances . The two protagonists result to be a pair ¨Quixotes¨ who obstinately undertake a trip whose objective looks to fulfill a pledge by whatever means . The main character George Briggs , superbly played by Tommy Lee Jones, seems to be living resolutely in the past and while the brave spinster wishes to marry him and create a family . Support cast is frankly excellent such as Barry Corbin , William Fichtner , Evan Jones , Jesse Plemons , Grace Gummer , Miranda Otto , and Tim Blake Nelson-James Spader, this duo previously appeared in ¨Lincoln¨ along with Tommy Lee and Hailee Steinfeld's second western after her Oscar-nominated , breakout role in ¨True Grit¨ . And , of course , the great Meryl Streep in her third collaboration with Tommy Lee Jones following "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Hope Springs . Intelligent and thoughtful screenplay by Kieran Fitzgerald , Wesley Oliver and the same Tommy Lee Jones , based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout that was published in 1988 ; in fact , Paul Newman owned the rights for a time, and wanted to direct the film himself , after a number of scripts, he gave up . Sensitive and evocative musical score by Marco Beltrani (Red eye , The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) . Special mention for glimmer and fascinating cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto he splendidly reflects the impressive outdoors from the filming locations : Lumpkin , Georgia , San Miguel County , Santa Fe , Oikay Owinger Pueblo , New Mexico . Much of the movie was shot on Tommy Lee Jones's own ranch .

    The film is a nice co-production , being produced , among others , by the great producer and director , the French Luc Besson . The picture was compellingly directed by Tommy Lee Jones , being his theatrical directing debut ¨The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada¨ that won a deserved prize in Cannes , this film bears a remarkable resemblance to ¨The Homesman¨ , dealing equally with a dangerous journey plenty of contrasts , attacks and many other things . His only other directing credits were the TV movies ¨Good old boys¨ (1995) and ¨The Sunset Limited¨ (2011) with Samuel L Jackson and all of them starred by Tommy Lee Jones . ¨Homesman¨ rating : Better than average , though overlong and slow-moving . Well worth watching , it's a must see for Tommy Lee Jones enthusiasts
  • I enjoy a good western but it would not be fair to this Tommy Lee Jones production to classify it as such without emphasizing the film is more than just a wagon trail journey of two unlikely characters across the rough and unforgiving western terrain. No, it is the story of two unlikely characters, a single and strong willed farmer named Mary Bee Cuddy played by Hilary Swank and a thieving drifter named George Briggs played by Tommy Lee Jones who agree to transport three women by wagon with real psychiatric (madness) problems from Nebraska to Idaho.

    There have been hundreds of relatively good westerns produced in the past half century where the hero and heroine remain strong and stoic whilst riding through the barren lands their suits and dresses remain pressed and in pristine condition while their hair is coiffed perfectly, and miraculously the heroine's makeup never dries, cracks or runs. Well such is not the case in the Homesman.

    Hilary Swank has never been afraid to shed the glamor of Hollywood and for her role as the stubborn, single, and capable farmer Mary Bee Cuddy the potential suitors that she asks to marry her turn her down and explain that she is far too plain looking, sexless, and too controlling in nature. So Mary Bee Cuddy agrees to make the arduous journey across the western plains maybe in the hope of finding a suitor in Idaho as she has run out of potential suitors in Nebraska and seems to be losing hope in raising a family on her own farm in Nebraska.

    As Mary Bee Cuddy commences her journey she comes across someone even more homely and desperate than herself in the name of aging drifter George Briggs who is within minutes of losing his life at the end of a rope for illegally claiming mining rights to another persons staked property. The terms set forth by Mary Bee Cuddy before she will agree to free George Briggs from his futile situation and imminent death by hanging are simple. He must first agree to travel across the western plains of Nebraska to assist Mary Bee Cuddy in the transportation of three insane women to a church in Idaho where they will receive the care and attention they will require to survive.

    And so the two hardened caretakers and their three insane passengers set out on their journey which I found to be not like any other western I had previously seen. This is not a humorous and light hearted western but a tough, grueling, and sad journey with what I was surprised provided unexpected results. Some people may not be happy with the last 30 minutes of this feature film, but this is actually where writer/actor/director Tommy Lee Jones hooked me with what I felt was a good feature film that ended strongly.

    There are numerous cameos throughout the film including standout performances by Tim Blake Nelson as a lonesome cowboy, John Lithgow as Reverend Dowd, and Jesse Plemons as a derelict husband to one of the insane women. Look for mother Meryl Streep in Idaho as the Reverends wife Altha Carter who enjoys sharing the screen with her real life daughter Grace Gummer who plays one of the three insane women Arabella Sours.

    I give the film a good 7 out of 10 rating.
  • The Homesman is directed by Tommy Lee Jones, who also co-adapts the screenplay from Glendon Swarthout's novel with Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley A. Oliver. It stars Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonja Richter. Music is by Marco Beltrami and cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto.

    Three women who have been driven mad by pioneer life are to be transported East across the country to Iowa. When the men of the town refuse to stand up and be counted, single, pious and independent- minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank), enrols for the task. Recruiting scallywag drifter George Briggs (Jones) to aid the journey, it becomes an arduous journey that will make or break both of them.

    The Homesman is a tricky Western, revisionist of heart and blood, and grim in nature, it's got a narrative that has (and will continue to do so) invited criticism from different quarters. It has been called misogynistic on one side of the fence, and feminist on the other! While there is a humongous narrative jump that has been lauded as great from some, and a film killer by others. The truth is that only each viewer can judge from their own personal perspectives. Personally I think that Jones has blended both the former angles to perfection, whilst the latter issue is to me an outstanding and brave piece of film.

    The life of the pioneer women is shatteringly brought into sharp focus, right from the off there's brutality blended with utter sadness as Jones the director cuts no corners in setting up the film. Big question then hits us in the face - just how did the Old West deal with those suffering mental disturbance? In this instance it's to pack them off to the East where they will be tended by a minister and his wife (the latter of which played by Meryl Streep in little more than a cameo). The three women are vividly portrayed by Otto, Gummer and Richter, but this aspect of the film is only a side-bar to the crux of the story.

    This is of course about Mary Cuddy and George Briggs, a man and woman at total different ends of the spectrum. She's sad at being alone without a man, he's more than happy to be without a woman. Everything suggests that this is going to be "one of those films" where opposites find a soul mate, but Jones and his backers may not be reverting to type? I mean for a start how interesting to find this journey going from West to East, that says much about the film right there, a pioneer journey in reverse. While the prominent ladies here may be mad, abused or needy, you will be searching far and wide for a decent man in this here tale.

    The landscapes are deftly photographed by Prieto, eye opening but never to the detriment of the narrative thrust of pioneer hardship. Betrami lays ethereal piano and string arrangements all over the piece, while joining Streep in short bursts of cameo characterisations are James Spader, John Lithgow, William Fitchner, Hailee Steinfeld and Tim Blake Nelson, that's quite an armoury of performers. Even if you can't help but want more from them all.

    But it's Swank and Jones, a superb pairing, who give the grade "A" performances. Jones lifts his old cantankerous ruffian character to greater heights, making Briggs the anti-hero to the anti-hero. While Swank hasn't been this great for a long time, making Mary Cuddy strong and inspiring, yet also evidently suffering inner turmoil. Swank's turn epitomises The Homesman, shrewd and insightful, humane and heartfelt. Top stuff all round, it's great to see modern directors confident enough to make biting moody Westerns. 9/10
  • menvaffan21 September 2014
    This is a great movie which in its offbeat dramaturgy depicts the unpredictability, pointlessness and hardships of life. And it does so with an underlying sense of humor which is almost Kafkaesque and absurd. Don't let the settings fool you –this is not a western flick, it is timeless, and it serves as a tasty, simple snack for the already thinking viewer. All "plotholes" pointed out by other reviewers actually makes sense when thinking about them, and once again kudos to the unpredictable, non-conformant, "non-template-A" storyline and character arcs which should be seen more in film and television.

    A little too much use of "fade-in fade-out" in the cutting, a little unrealistic portrayal of mental disease, and a little uninspiring photography IMO actually, but otherwise a great flick for the thinking person. With guns.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read a review that said one of the main characters kills herself because either A: she had sex and didn't enjoy it . Or B: she had sex and enjoyed it so much she couldn't handle it. I stopped reading mid way through that sentence. Can people really be that blind and stupid? She killed herself because she had humiliated herself to a point she couldn't return from.. She killed herself because of her desperation , she let someone really, really see that. She killed herself because her belief systems , based on the bible , were so polarized from some need in her, the two couldn't fit together.. She killed herself because she found out in a really hard way, that being a good person, ( stopping to re bury the dead ) having the heart that she did , it meant nothing in this world. And that's all she had was heart. No one cares about that. They all just want what they want. They want things that don't matter. They want to feed themselves. The grave scene , was the crucible here. I loved it when the horse went right back to the grave. " see what you did?" " was it worth it" and that is the question this film asks. Is having heart worth anything? Can you function here, in this world with one? The deal is you can't. Unless you are very rich. Unfortunately most rich people get rich by not having a heart, as so aptly demonstrated in this film also. At some point in your life , if you've got that heart, you're either going to have to really get comfortable with humility, because pride will kill you. Every hero ends up a Villain here if they don't die young. Or you are going to have to get tough. Or you simply won't last, or you will lose your mind. It's not really a good thing if you have assimilated successfully to this society. That means, your ambitious, greedy, selfish and a liar. But you also, probably don't even know that. I hated the scenes of lunacy. I had to fast forward through them. I saw a naked baby coming out in the snow- goodbye. Fast forward is my friend. I have my own little babies sleeping next to me. There was no way I was going to watch babies or children get hurt. But the reason why these scenes are in the movie, is because it's making you make that choice. It's saying , get tough . Of course, the polar opposite of that's spectrum is the insane women. They went insane because they had heart and they were stuck. They couldn't leave. They obviously weren't as brave as Miss Cuddy. She did what a lot of people do that have too much pride , too much heart and courage. She killed herself. Overall, I didn't enjoy this movie. It was very hard to watch, and that's not why I watch movies. I can watch hard movies, but what can I say, I like for there to be some soft spots.. Some place where I get to keep my hope. There is no space for hope in this movie. My favorite scene was him burning down the house. Because , that's why he is the only one who lives in this movie and isn't crazy. He has zero pride. He let's out his demons. Which , like I said. Every hero is a villain. Just gotta live long enough. If you haven't been a villain yet, you were never a hero.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I learned something today. Luc Besson - the Producer - may give us tremendous movies when he dares to, when he is in "the mood" for. This one is the perfect example, at a billion miles away from the usual garbage Junk stuff Besson usually gives us. Crap factory from Europa Corp.

    This film is a masterpiece, so was another Europacorp film directed by the same Tommy Lee Jones, back in 2005, THREE BURIALS that no one can forget. Such as this one. An unusual and surprising western.

    Hillary Swank is here at her best ever, probably better than in MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Clint Eastwood could have made this one, and not only as a director...

    A poignant, gripping story that glues you to your seat from the start to the end. The odyssey, the melancholic journey of a man and a woman, so different from one to the other, who are in charge of three lunatic females. An offbeat and also outstanding tale, adapted from a Glendon Swarthout's novel, the author of THE SHOOTIST, from which Don Siegel made the last John Wayne's film, back in 1976.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Greetings again from the darkness. We have come to expect our Westerns to be filled with stoic heroes and nasty villains, but this film delivers a pious, yappy leading lady paired with a selfish, no frills drifter. Based on the 1988 novel from Glendon Swarthout, it's also the second directorial outing from Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005).

    Hilary Swank play Mary Bee Cuddy, a name repeated so many times that it will surely stick with you ... even if the movie doesn't. Thirty-one years old and unmarried, Ms. Cuddy is not without talent. She works the plough horses, cooks up fried chicken, and plays a mean fake piano. As is pointed out to her a couple of times, she is also "bossy" and "plain" looking ... neither trait especially appealing to men in the wild west.

    Ms. Cuddy volunteers to take three local women to Iowa. The three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) have each gone insane, and somehow Iowa is the most civilized place within a wagon ride's distance. She teams up with a low-life drifter played by Tommy Lee Jones, after they strike a deal that allows him to escape certain death. The verbal clash of cultures and personality between the two main characters provides most of the action on screen, as the three women being escorted are mostly muted and either locked in the back of the wagon or tied to a wagon wheel during riding breaks.

    The film is at its best when focusing on the harsh realities of frontier life. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain) does a nice job of capturing the wide expanse and stark vastness of the landscape, while also tossing in some artsy silhouettes and abruptness of this life. Director Jones utilizes some haphazardly timed flashbacks to help us better understand the plight of the three women, but this could have been done much more effectively. Courage, inner-strength, and morality all play a role here and the contrast between frontier and civilization was most distinct.

    Much of the film plays like an oddball buddy picture - think Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hours, or Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen. If you find the interaction between Swank and Jones to be realistic, then you will probably buy into the whole film. If not, the lack of flow and choppiness of scenes will jump out. There seems to be a never ending stream of little more than cameos from a tremendous line-up of actors: Barry Corbin, William Fichtner, Jesse Plemons, David Dencik, Evan Jones, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, and Hailee Steinfeld. There are even a couple of scenes near the end featuring Meryl Streep (her daughter Grace Gummer plays one of the 3 insane women). The slew of familiar faces actually detracted from the story for me, because the Swank and Jones characters just couldn't hold my attention.

    The ending seems quite odd and a bit out of place for what we have just watched, and I'm still confused by the line of dialogue addressing the difficult "winter" they must have had on the wagon trip ... it's clearly stated that the trip began in May and would take a few weeks. Even in Nebraska, May and June can't be considered winter. If you enjoy Hilary Swank on a soapbox or Tommy Lee Jones dancing a jig, then perhaps the pieces will fit better for you than they did for me.
  • In a genre that now sadly remains idle a majority of the time, it's a great joy to see grizzled industry veteran and virtual real life cowboy Tommy Lee Jones tackle Glendon Swarthout's source novel and create one of the most fully formed and interesting Westerns of the modern age, in what is a brutally raw, violently unapologetic and hauntingly beautiful modern day tale of the Wild West unlike any other before it and with a cast of uniformly great acting turns, The Homesman is one of the year's best films regardless of genre.

    Reigniting an oft far to dormant genre, Tommy Lee Jones has here gone on with the strength he showed as director in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and created a world set in the west that seemingly takes its cues from the novels of Cormac McCarthy and the visuals of a Coen Brothers journey and moulds it into a story that is an original and intriguing take of life in the harsh confines of the west. Jones's direction is quite faultless in the film, with wonderful help from DOP Rodrigo Prieto and composer Marco Beltrami, he truly creates some of the year's most memorable and at times most haunting imagery. Whether it be the solemn sight of washing clothes in the open plains of the frontier, a particularly large homestead fire or a raft of wince inducing moments involving the 3 tormented women at the centre of this journey, The Homesman is filled to the brim with outstanding movie making moments that are highlighted even more so due to a surrounding of multilayered characters and fine acting turns.

    Once more proving to the industry and we the audience members that she is one of the best actresses in the business, Hilary Swank delivers another award worthy turn as hardened city girl turned farmer Mary Bee Buddy who is the heart and soul of this tale. Mary Bee is a character both to be encouraged by and also saddened by and it's easily one of the year's most unpredictable character arcs. As good as Swank is, she is equally matched by Jones himself as lost soul ex-army man George Briggs. It's a joy to behold Jones in what was clearly a role he relished, from dark humour, moments of stark reflection or instances of unbridled dancing happiness, Jones delivers a turn that is easily his best in years and arguable of his career. These two leads are fantastically supported by all who appear throughout The Homesman's journey, from all three actresses locked away in the back of the wagon, brief appearances from the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, Jesse Plemons or James Spader, the ensemble of the picture are all universally great.

    Not a flawless film by any stretch of the imagination, The Homesman is however without doubt an affecting and moving motion picture that tells a story of heartbreak, love, loss and all things in between in the now underused setting of the Wild West that proves to be one of the year's most hauntingly realistic tales. The story here will take you places you never thought it would and come the touching final scene, an understanding of the great filmmaking you have just witnessed will wash over you and that is a feeling to be mightily thankful for.

    4 and a half roasted pigs out of 5

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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Life in Nebraska in the mid-nineteenth century was harsh. Scratching a living from unforgiving soil was difficult enough but hard winters, bitter winds and deep snows took a toll. Women were a step above chattel, but sometimes livestock were better treated. In that harsh world, some women went crazy. The Homesman is the story of a five-month long journey from Nebraska to Iowa transporting three insane women, driven mad by their lives in the West.

    Hilary Swank plays a plain woman who is tough, direct and eager to find a husband. She owns land and works it hard. The local men agree that she is the equal in skill to frontier men, and none of them wants to marry her. She is too "bossy." She is selected to handle the task of transporting the women by wagon because she shoots straight, cooks and can handle the horses. Before she begins her journey, she wins Tommy Lee Jones' services. Jones is a local scoundrel, who is better off traveling to Iowa because everyone in Nebraska wants to kill him.

    There are a series of very disgusting scenes that illustrate how insane the women are, and there are some vile scenes not for the faint of heart. These we mark up to the hardness of people who are surviving a cruel world.

    Tommy Lee Jones, the actor, is like comfortable old shoes. He is not pretty. The camera explores his worn features, his sagging eyes and his deep fissures. He appears to be a man without vanity. We have seen this character in recent films, films like "No Country for Old Men," "The Missing," "In the Valley of Elah," and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." We welcome him back like a favorite relative. Hilary Swank is the focus of most of the film. This is a new character for her, and she is convincing as the tough, compassionate, devout spinster who is the film's moral compass.

    Jones' directing is first-rate also. The western is Jones' territory, and, in this film, he gets writing credit as well.

    One of the best film of 2014.
  • Very good Western, Jones' follow-up to the also excellent The Three Burials of Melquiadas Estrada. I think I liked that one slightly better, but this is very solid, despite some bits of poor editing and some bits of unwelcome weirdness. It's very episodic, as well, though I kind of liked how it was structured. Hilary Swank stars as a single woman in her early 30s out West. When three women in the small settlement of Loup go insane, she volunteers to take them back to civilization so they can get care. Knowing she's not going to be able to cut it alone, she picks up crazy old coot Tommy Lee Jones and brings him along. Swank and Jones are both very good in the film. Plenty of other fine, little performances in the film abound from the likes of William Fichtner, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, James Spader (actually not sure if I'd call his uber-Irish performance good or not, but he was amusing), Tim Blake Nelson and Meryl Streep. I kind of hated the depiction of the three crazy women. One of them is Grace Gummer. I think she went insane because she knows she'll never be as good as her mom, and they basically end up returning her butt right to her mother (Streep, if you didn't know).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I liked the cast, the music and the cinematography. I could have liked the story but I felt that the writer opted for shock-drama rather than continued character development . We all understand that life is not always wonderful, people are not always good and bad things do happen. I am aware of that every morning when I watch the news. I don't want a movie to be more depressing than the news and this movie was.

    A simple story – three mentally unstable women need to be transported to a place of care. It's a long trip – several weeks by horseback. The compassionate and caring Mary Bee Cuddy takes on this responsibility even though she knows it's a dangerous undertaking.

    We really don't know much about Mary Bee. We learn that she is on her own. She has a farm, some money but she is alone and she is concerned about getting "too old" to start a family. She is looking for a husband and she is not very choosy – pickings are slim in the wild west. Apparently even the burnt out losers think she is "plain" to the point of being unworthy of wedlock. Swank is an unusual looking woman but she is attractive and although the makeup department does their best to "drab her up", she still looks fine – so when the unshaven, dirty and relatively stupid men turn her down, it doesn't ring true.

    So, back to the long trek east - Mary Bee enlists the help of George Briggs (Tommy Lee) as a result of a promise he makes after she saves him from a hanging. Briggs is not a particularly likable character and he is motivated by the promise of a cash payment at the end of the journey. The dialog reveals a bit about his past – a stint with the dragoons, he's a deserter and a loner. He looks like a completely fried old man that hasn't had a woman or a bath in twenty years. And yet, with that in mind, he still seems to feel he is too good for Mary Bee.

    So the five embark on their journey. There are a few situations that arise that are dangerous (a potential Indian attack, a lunatic steals one of the women, food shortages) but nothing really unusual happens. It's all mildly interesting but I kept waiting for the "big problem" .Up to this point (maybe the two thirds through the movie) I enjoyed the movie.

    And then, the big surprise. The shocker. The reason I was turned off.

    The rest of the movie is an attempt and showing how Briggs has started to "come around" and find some compassion of his own. Too little, too late. The ending scene is a total bring-down.

    Didn't like it.
  • dioptriy8 December 2015
    With his portrayal of Glendon Swarthout's novel, Tommy Lee Jones presents us one of the most impressive pieces of cinema I have ever seen. Story, screen writing, acting and photography are top notch. But there is no way to enjoy it. You can only be crushed and survive. The Homesman tells us story about a low life caught between two worlds, both he can't relate to. Circumstances take him on a journey that will test him to his limits. It's a story about human spirit, moments of glory and the point of break. A story of human civilization, religion, morality, life and death. Yes, it is that deep. It is purely philosophical drama, please don't expect to get any western action. Movie is slow, hard and painful as all biggest lessons of life are. PS I assume low film rating is a result of pepsi generation voting. PPS And thanks to everyone who made this film despite it being obvious commercial suicide and cinematic challenge.
  • (87%) A significantly better film than many others have already claimed, but then again I enjoyed it far more with my sights set pretty low before the first reel went round making for an even more enjoyable experience. This is the best new western I've seen since Django unchained, and really should have been awarded with a much wider release; although "Nativity 3" is clearly far worthier. Hilary Swank is very well cast as a straight-laced lonely old west singleton taking on a worthy, yet difficult and dangerous mission. But it's Jones who adds a needed additional layer to the story with a different, more self interested viewpoint of the journey, coupled with a number of really quite funny lines and outbursts bringing a lighter note to an at times deadly serious production. The revelation point that hampered the movie for many actually worked better than I feared as it fit into the harshness of the story and made the final few scenes one of the more wonderfully poignant I've seen this year This is a tough, interesting, and very well assembled picture that tells its worthy story very well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers!

    Started off well, then the central focus of the film shifted and it lost me. If, in telling an authentic western, the director has to make the story meander a little… OK. But to lose it's way and end up making an egotistical, self satisfying, self indulgent eulogy to himself? If this is what it takes… then, this director has made a classic of the western genre. ( If Mr.Eastwood can do it… then why can't Mr.Jones? )

    The films 'hanging the protagonist' at the half way point, and continuing the film… essentially and implicitly 'for and about' Mr.Jones - leaves you perplexed and disappointed in Mr.Jones decision making. Possibly it worked in the novel. But the way it's portrayed on film, it just seems odd?

    Was Mr.Jones relishing the movie goers tears, at the sudden loss of Ms.Swanks character? Was her death, supposed to be the sound of Oscar's clinking in his ears?

    To centre so strongly on her, before killing her off. It just didn't fit the tale being spun. Made the rest of the movie uneven and strangely off kilter from then onwards. The sudden focus on Mr.Jones ( near characterless up to that moment ) felt ill fitting and credulous.

    Suddenly on his own, we are shown the 'redemption' scene… where Mr.Jones and his chaperon's aren't allowed food and rest. How he deals with that... is indicative of the movie's problems. Why was that scene there? …and why did the heroine hang herself? Where did that come from? Why did three women in such a small town all lose their sanity - at the same time? Everything within the story, felt fabricated and fanciful.

    The script should probably have been about her, her journey and completing it. Without her, the film seems misogynistic. All the female characters that we see for ninety percent of the movie… irrevocably lose their sanity? The outward signs of the 'madness' of each of the women… was cinematically vivid and startlingly detailed. But what was the point to it? That the 'old west' was harsh on women? …but fine for men, as long as they're unfeeling simpletons?

    Leaving the story chopped in two, killing off the heroine and making Mr.Jones… a little cinematic swan song. Didn't work for me and ruined… what was potentially an interesting production up to that point. No wonder Hollywood wouldn't back this films making… and Luc Bessons ( ill-advised ) French company stepped in to fund it. It's not all bad, but as a whole… it falls apart and should never have been made. Possibly a more experienced director, and not so egotistical... would have known this?
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