Skip to main content

Movie review: 'The Homesman'

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

"The Homesman" (R) 3 stars (out of four)

In an awards season hyped by a sophomore directorial effort with Angelina Jolie and "Unbroken," Tommy Lee Jones solidly flies in under the radar with his second feature film as director with "The Homesman." And while it's quite likely Jones' independent feature will disappear from the public's radar before Jolie's film on Dec. 25, it may have luck in a couple acting categories if awards voters take notice.

Hilary Swank stars as Mary Bee Cuddy, a well-to-do spinster who relocates from New York City to rural Nebraska in the 1850s in hopes of landing new business opportunities and with any luck, a husband. Following another rejection from a prospective suitor and looking for a purpose, Mary volunteers to transport three women driven to insanity after a harsh winter in the prairie to a church in Iowa that treats the mentally ill.

But as strong-willed and physically capable as Mary is in an era that places little value on women, she decides she can't make the five-week trip by horse and wagon alone. To aid her efforts, Mary befriends a harmless drifter, George Briggs (Jones), to help her navigate the harsh environment and fend off the dangers of the territory, only to realize that the grizzled ne'er do-well may be the mate she's long been hoping for.

Those who enjoy great performances will certainly get a fill of them in "The Homesman." While it's clearly a film meant to highlight Swank's and Jones' talents, it also benefits from a strong supporting cast that includes John Lithgow, and to a lesser extent, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit"), William Fichtner and Meryl Streep.

Stellar performances aside, "The Homesman" never quite manages to pull itself out of its narrative funk because of its dark and depressing subject matter. The scenes that chronicle the three women's (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonya Richter) psychological breaks are deeply disturbing and particularly tough to watch, and all hope for an uplifting ending is thrown out the window with a shocking twist before the final third of the film.

For a film that aspires to be a tale of redemption, "The Homesman" rides a very rocky road getting there.

Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for BringMeTheNews, “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.

Next Up

2019_1229_Bears_Home_0831

Ryan Poles picking Chicago creates battle of the rebuilds with Vikings

Both of the Vikings' GM finalists land in the same division looking to return to relevancy.

David Ortiz

Twins congratulate David Ortiz on HOF induction, it ends badly

Twins fans haven't forgotten the biggest mistake in franchise history.

Snowmobile tracks Any Arthur Flickr

Who left the burnt snowmobile on a frozen Minnesota lake?

There wasn't much left beyond the frame and a few other large, metal parts.

T Kline Robbinsdale City Council

Charges: Drunk council member fled police on wrong side of Hwy. 100

The complaint alleges he caused a wrong-way crash, then drove around an officer that tried to stop him.

20211010_Vikings_Lions_REG05_0560

What does the future hold for the Vikings at linebacker?

Anthony Barr is hitting free agency, and Eric Kendricks is approaching age 30

vehicle car

String of vehicle thefts in St. Paul, most left running unattended

The department is urging people not to leave their car running unattended.

kid hospital doctor

Child COVID hospitalizations reach pandemic-high in northern MN

As omicron surges, more kids are ending up in the hospital.

ice fishing close unsplash

'It's disgusting': Anglers dumping sewage on to popular ice fishing lake

A local CO told Bring Me The News it's people in newer, RV-style wheel houses.

Alejandro Rios and Michael Steward

Reward offered for information on 2021 double fatal shooting in St. Paul

It's been a year since Alejandro Rios and Michael Stewart were found dead on the sidewalk.

Related