Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Jo Harvey Allen, Barry Corbin, David Dencik, William Fichtner, Evan Jones, Caroline Lagerfelt, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, Jesse Plemons, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, Meryl Streep
Written by: Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A. Oliver, based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content, some disturbing behavior and nudity
Running Time: 122
Date: 11/14/2014

The Homesman (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crazy for Feelin' So Lonely

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a classic novel by Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote The Shootist, The Homesman is something close to a great modern-day Western. As evidenced by his last film, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, director Tommy Lee Jones has a keen eye for hard landscapes (including his own weathered face) and emotional compositions. The Homesman is full of striking imagery: the locked, coffin-like coach, fresh new buildings in hardscrabble dirt, or a disturbed grave on a gnarly plain.

Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is an upright, single pioneer woman in the Nebraska Territory, unable to find a husband on account of being "plain" and "bossy." When three local women go insane and need to be transported to Iowa for special care, Mary Bee volunteers for the unpleasant, dangerous job. She happens upon a so-called claim jumper, the ragged, uncouth George Briggs (Jones), at the end of a rope, she rescues him in exchange for his help on the journey. Besides adapting to the unpredictable and disturbing behavior of the women, the unlikely pair must face cold, Indians, and other dangers. But their biggest challenge might just lie in their own hearts.

Jones is wise enough to step into the supporting role, giving Hilary Swank room to do her best stuff as Mary Bee Cuddy, an extraordinary woman, as strong as a man, yet full of yearning and forever giving more than she gets. As George Briggs, Jones sometimes provides cranky comic relief from the grim material but eventually grows into a sympathetic, essential character (thanks to several women). Meryl Streep works her magic in the later scenes, as does young cowgirl Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit).

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release looks amazing, highlighting a texture that's specific to the Western. There are only three short extras, behind-the-scenes stuff, with clips and interviews.

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