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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Homesman (2014)

A lonely spinster (Hilary Swank) is self sufficient and lives alone which is an anomaly in the 19th century West. When no one else will, she takes on the job of escorting three married women (Miranda Otto, Grace Gummer, Sonja Richter), who have literally been driven mad by the hardships of the West, back to civilization where they will be cared for. She realizes she won't be able to do it alone so she saves a claim jumper (Tommy Lee Jones) from hanging under the condition he assists her in her journey. The American West has been romanticized by Hollywood for decades, giving the genre a nostalgic mystique that continues to this day. Even when the revisionist westerns of Peckinpah and Leone came in the 1960s, they didn't quite dispense with romanticism either. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout (WHERE THE BOYS ARE), Tommy Lee Jones directed, co-wrote the script and co-produced in addition to playing a leading role. Jones does not romanticize the West, indeed he gives us a western that shows what a shit hole the West could be and most likely was. It's a sparse, grim film that emphasizes the bleakness and lack of hope that the day to day life was in the West and no more terrible than for its women. It's a difficult journey for both its protagonists and its audience but well worth it. With Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, James Spader, William Fichtner, Hailee Steinfeld (TRUE GRIT) and Tim Blake Nelson in the film's only weak performance.

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