The Homesman is about a strong-willed, determined and independent woman in early America, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Mary is well-off financially, she owns a significant amount of land, and yet she's also lonely, depressed and desperate. Not simply for a man either, but for a mutually beneficial relationship that will ensure her survival for generations to come, in one way or another. It's tough to go it all alone in early America. After three women go insane from the hardships of the land, Reverend Dowd (John Lithgow) suggests that a man volunteer to take the women to a facility that can properly take care of the women. Unsatisfied with the reserved response from all the men, Mary Bee Cuddy says that she'll take the women herself, knowing full well how dangerous the journey can be, especially for a woman all by herself.
Along the way Mary Bee Cuddy comes across a man, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) strung up by his neck and is only alive thanks to his horse's good graces to stay still. Mary sees that the man might be useful to assist her across the Midwest and despite knowing all too well the perilous and arduous journey ahead of them, George agrees to Mary's terms to help her transport these three crazy women to better conditions. The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones first major movie that he's directed and he's also adapted it from a book into a screenplay. So I dare say that he felt rather passionate about The Homesman and it does show in the movie, you can feel his attentiveness and hard work put up on screen.
I find myself becoming more and more interested and appreciative of cinematography lately. I notice it now when I never used to and I have to say that the cinematography in The Homesman is stunning, it really is. I would not be surprised if it received a nomination for cinematography, and it absolutely deserves the recognition too. The striking and powerful cinematography aside, The Homesman is a superbly acted, well written and surprisingly humorous western at times, but it's also a complex movie. I'm not even sure if I could tell you what The Homesman was about exactly.
On the surface The Homesman is about Mary Bee Cuddy coaxing George Briggs into helping her transport three insane women across the sprawling frontier, but that's only the superficial bullet points of the story. The plot I described was always secondary to the emotional core of the movie, I'm sure that there's a much larger, philosophical subtext to the movie. In some ways, I think The Homesman is similar to the largely misunderstood The Counselor, in so far as both movies are not so concerned with moving the plot from point a, to point b. That's not the sort of movies they are. The Homesman and The Counselor are philosophical movies before they're a movie about crime or another western.
Some people will probably find The Homesman pointless, but I think that was the point of it. If you're looking for a shoot 'em up, feel good western then The Homesman is not the one for you. I personally like movies that make you think, movies that aren't so black and white, where morality is made up of shades of grey. Full of emotions that are raw, real and are not always consistent, that seems much more human to me, inconsistent and amorphous emotions. In that sense, The Homesman delivers, but I still couldn't help but feel that it came up short. I admire the ambition and the beauty of the movie, yet sadly, it's one that I never really felt a connection with. Probably because it was a little too ambiguous and depressing for me. I imagine a lot of people will find The Homesman to be a beautiful, but frustrating and unsatisfying movie.
If there is a philosophical point to The Homesman at all, beyond the sharp and biting ironies life, it's just as Tommy Lee Jones danced on that barge while Mary Bee Cuddy fell by the wayside that it was made abundantly clear that life goes on. No matter how unfair you think life treats you, or how many regrets you have, life goes on, and it stops for no man or woman. You can either choose to find a positive, uplifting take on it, that life will always go on, or you can find the pessimistic take on it and say that no matter what we do, or say, none of it matters, we don't matter. It's all a matter of perspective I suppose, but I think George choose the positive outlook, albeit regrettably.
Written by - The Sentry - 25/11/2014