Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Meet Miss Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank). Strong, healthy…single. Mary has an impressive ranch, livestock, money in the bank and a nice home. What she doesn’t have is a husband. She often entertains gentlemen callers, making them a fine dinner and then singing for them. But no luck. When she finally takes the bull by the horns and proposes marriage to one of her callers she is flatly turned down. “Sorry,” the would be beau says as he leaves the house, “you’re too bossy!”
A story about resilience, forgiveness and redemption, “The Homesman” is a well-cast, well-intentioned film that hopefully read better in its original novel form. The basic plot concerns three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Gro Svendsen) living in the Nebraska Territory who have “taken ill” and are now believe to be mentally unstable. They have done horrible things and are being shipped to a minister in Iowa and his wife for caretaking. Mary volunteers to take the women on their journey and, after coming across a claim-jumper (Jones) on the verge of being hanged, has him accompany her in exchange for saving his life. With the women secured in the back of an enclosed wagon the two set out on the nearly five week adventure, bonding somewhat along the way. Somewhat.
As co-star, director and co-writer/producer, Tommy Lee Jones wears many hats (including an impressive black one in the film). He moves the story along well, not spending a lot of time on any external storylines. Unfortunately this sometimes works against him as a majority of the film feels like a series of clever “moments” that occur when the story calls for them. The cast does fine, with familiar names like Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, William Fichtner and Barry Corbin doing good, solid work.
Another positive is the beautiful, picture-like scenery that Jones and Rodrigo Prieto, his cinematographer, discover on location. The work here is similar to his Oscar nominated achievement with “Brokeback Mountain.”