wed 29/05/2024

Cannes 2014: The Homesman | reviews, news & interviews

Cannes 2014: The Homesman

Cannes 2014: The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars in this both fresh and familiar Western

Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank in 'The Homesman' a film of "melancholy poetry"

For decades, film audiences have known the craggy-faced Tommy Lee Jones as an actor, mostly playing pugnacious, oddball, characters, way beyond the borders of respectability.

Here, in his second film as a director, consolidating his credentials as a director-actor after his impressive directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), which drew favourable comparisons with Sam Peckinpah, he portrays a bitter, seen-it-all outsider, cajoled into helping a lonely 35-year-old, "bossy and plain" virgin (the splendidly unplain Hilary Swank) transport three insane married women back to their families in the East.

Like all post-Fordian Westerns, The Homesman cannot help being referential to an extent. This one nods towards John Ford (specifically, the crazed women in The Searchers and Two Rode Together), and Howard Hawks, with its gender role reversal - Swank takes the initiative in all aspects of the trip, even sexually. It is also inevitable that the relationship between the hard-drinking Jones and the do-gooder Christian virgin should evoke Rooster Cogburn – one can easily imagine Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne in the roles.

Yet, except for one perfunctory appearance by hostile Red Indians, there is even a doubt about the movie’s classification as a Western. Although the trek is a staple theme of Westerns, just when the plot seems to be getting nowhere, like the characters, the film takes a surprising turn when a death gives it new life. The excellent cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, which does not dwell on the beauty of the landscape but on its vastness, becomes brighter towards the end, reflecting the change in the situation. (There is a surreal scene when they come across a hotel in the middle of nowhere, like a house in an Andrew Wyeth painting.) But the film is never self-consciously aesthetic and despite comparisons, The Homesman has a melancholy poetry all of its own.


One can easily imagine Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne in the roles


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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