The Homesman (2014) – Review

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones
Written by Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A Oliver from Glendon Swarthout
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank
A claim jumper and a pioneer woman team up to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.
Aaah yes. It’s that time again, isn’t it. This qualifies, I think, as an early runner. It’s got Hilary Swank in it. It’s got Meryl Streep in it (okay, for about four minutes). It has a tale of hardship in the American West of Yore (y’know, horses, dustbowl, whiskey, general unpleasantness) and is seemingly a true passion project for an already established and well-respected member of the Hollywood community, who is probably just arriving at the opportune moment to pick up one of those shiny golden chaps.

Oscar time has arrived. Much like Tesco’s and Christmas, it’s too bloody early by a good few months, but this camp at least believes that starting the race now will give them enough of a head start to make it interesting by the time everyone reaches the finish line next February.

Throw a frock and a bonnet on them, they’ll be fine. It’s certainly worked in the past and you can’t help but feel that as far as entertainment was concerned, this may not have been the first thought on Tommy Lee Jones’ agenda. In fact, throughout large periods of The Homesman, you might rightly call it dull for dulls’ sake, as if the audience needed to know what an exemplary cast had been assembled and just how good they are this type of thing, and bugger the content.

Chances are, if you didn’t want to see this purely on the quality of the performances, then you probably wouldn’t appreciate the visit anyway, so preaching to the converted might be the consequence of such a decision by the makers, which brings me back full circle as to whether this is really entertainment or just an audition piece for the Academy.
 

Regardless of the intent, Tommy Lee Jones has still delivered a very well polished project that large numbers of cinema lovers will appreciate. It may certainly not be for everyone, but it’s safe to say that this was probably already a fact well realised prior to its creation. If you can set aside the nagging feeling of ‘manufactured for your consideration’, then you are in for a very satisfying couple of hours in the company of some great performances of characters that may just be slightly shy of fully rounded, but head and shoulders above most the competition prior to the real Oscar race getting underway this autumn.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of Meryl Streep (who wouldn’t) and I was a little disappointed by the plot which displayed great promise in the first half and then became a little tiresome and lacklustre in a second half that seemed to lose its way a touch. It’s not the Jones didn’t where we he was going, but just that he had to fill the journey with something other than watching a wagon roll on a dusty trail for another hour.

As for authenticity, I’m no expert, but it all looked convincing enough to the philistine in me and I didn’t spot a single mobile phone, so three cheers for continuity. In all, we would expect this to be supremely well-delivered and it so it was, with performances from all of the main cast that can’t really be faulted. This should come as no great surprise, seeing as Jones appears to have cherry-picked the best he could lay his not inconsiderable hands on. As such, this is short on entertainment, so may be one for the acting purists in the audience, that are less impressed by story-telling, but more enamoured by the ones that are telling it.

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