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Film & TV

The Homesman (2014) – Madness on the Plains

    In The Homesman, when three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women home by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) head east, where a waiting minister and his wife (Meryl Streep) have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.
The Homesman    The Homesman, based on the 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout, is a western that is both traditional and at the same time progressive. Tommy Lee Jones, who both wrote (with Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley Oliver) and directed the Homesman, keeps the viewer off balance with surprising turns and plot twists, and a sudden end to a major character. The dynamic between Mary Bee and Briggs is very enjoyable, as they are both renegades in their own way. Though we don’t get to learn much of the three women’s back story, their characters are well played.
    Jones handles the material quite well; Mary Bee, Briggs and their charges seem to be swallowed up by the vastness of the landscape, and when Mary Bee is separated from the group it is almost like watching someone lost at sea. The film is relentless; the early introduction to the insane women is haunting, a visit to the remote Fairfield Hotel is surreal, and the event that sends Briggs center stage is shattering, all of which makes the tame ending quite a disappointment. All in all a good film, containing, as Roger Ebert put it, “the dark, hallucinatory quality of a nightmare”. You can grab this eerie film HERE.

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