Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Writer: Tommy Lee Jones,Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A. Oliver
Based on: Glendon Swarthout‘s novel
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, David Dencik, William Fichtner, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, Meryl Streep
Seen on: 06.01.2015
At the very west of the settling effort in the USA, three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) have a psychotic break and there are no options for help in the settlements and their husbands (David Dencik, William Fichtner, Jesse Plemons) are partly overwhelmed and partly cruel, but generally of not much use. Reverend Dowd (John Lithgow) suggest that the women should be taken back east to get some help, and the only one willing to do that is Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) who is trying to build her life in the west on her own. Mary Bee stumbles upon George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) who has been left to hang, and saves his life, but demands that he come with her to bring the women to safety. And so the five of them set off on the dangerous trek, despite the general unwillingness of everybody involved but Mary Bee.
The Homesman could have been a good film, if it hadn’t been for George Briggs and the movie’s obsession with him.
Already from the trailer, I thought that this would be the kind of film that forces some man into the story instead of focusing on the awesome woman it had already established as the protagonist of her own story. And that was the case exactly. Only that it was even worse than I thought because, on the one hand, Mary Bee dies about halfway through, leaving Briggs the sole hero and on the other hand, any and all character development Briggs had gone through was obliterated at the end of the film.
I keep seeing the film in my head that The Homesman could have been, if it had been The Homeswoman: The plain Mary Bee who always tries to do what’s right just needs to get out of her life for a bit after she proposed to her neighbor who rudely declined. The chance to do right and catch a bit of a break presents itself when three women in her neighborhood need to be brought back east for treatment: their lives in general and their husbands in particular drove them to psychosis. Since none of the men in the area can really be trusted, Mary Bee takes on the challenge on her own. As they make the slow and arduous journey, the women start to ease into a routine. It’s strained at first, but it grows a little easier every day. Depending on your need for harmony, they could heal more or less, but some healing would be done, just by the sake of sharing a community where they feel surprisingly safe, despite the hostile plains around them.
Instead we get a movie about a grumpy old drunk who does one thing right in his life and then falls back into his old patterns. What becomes of the women is not even worth mentioning once he has fulfilled his mission. And I’m just so tired of movies about grumpy old men whose redemption takes precedence over every other character in the film. [Plus, so that the choice to bring the women all the way becomes even more of a moral decision, the film includes a huge plot hole in Mary Bee’s handling of the money she promises Briggs.]
I was just really bored by the film, especially after Mary Bee dies. Particularly since the three women are not only psychotic, they don’t talk or seem to have any kind of faculties left (thanks for that representation of mental illness, by the way). They might as well have been cattle. And since I never started to care for Briggs, there was nothing else in the film for me (apart from the wonderful cameos by James Spader and Meryl Streep, and the generally wonderful performances – but it just wasn’t enough).