When I write a movie (or TV) review, I do everything I can to avoid spoiling the movie by telling too much about it. I simply try to tell you enough that you can decide if the movie is something you want to see. With some films this is a bit difficult because the story may be so complex or (the opposite) non-existent. Both of which make it very difficult to explain in a short review. The movie Homesman should fit into one of these categories, but it just doesn’t. It’s a head shaker—you know it was good, but you just don’t know quite why.
I think the reason it is difficult to peg this movie is because it is almost overpoweringly disturbing and extremely sad. Now I know many people don’t want to see movies that make them feel bad, but although this movie is one huge downer, I think it is worth experiencing. Comedic, thrill-packed, eye-candy movies leave you with pretty positive feelings, but a good gloomy, dismal, and grief-stricken plot touches many of the brain’s hot spots and evokes emotions that pleasing, hope filled movies never will. Why some of us love to go to these macabre places in our minds, I’m not sure (I know, am I ever sure of anything?—answer—no). Maybe it makes our own painful thoughts seem less significant. Maybe it’s “misery needs company.” Maybe it’s because we’re half-crazy ourselves. I just don’t know. But every once in a while, I just want to go down “Melancholy Road.” Homesman will certainly take you there.
The setting for the Homesman is the flat prairies of Nebraska in the 1850s. It was during the period when immigrants who thought they would stake out some land and turn it into a fine ranch or farm were settling this area. The men kept busy by working themselves to death, while the women raised children, cooked, and looked out the window. What they saw out the window was an endless, monotonous, flat plain of dead weeds. The only other thing to look at was their home; a small, pathetic, shit-brown shack of sod. The men kept on keeping on (until something killed them). The women went stark raving mad.
The plot of Homesman in a nutshell (peanut) is that when these women went crazy the best thing for them (according to the husbands) was to return them to their homes in the East. This meant they were put into a wagon with a “Homesman,” who was hired to take women back to their families. The goal was to get the women to civilization which was a five-week long trip over a land with no comforts and plenty of discomforts. By drawing the short straw, the responsibility for carrying out this transfer fell not to a man, but to a pious women named Mary Bee Cuddy.
With the help of a wretched drifter, George Briggs, who she promise to pay $300, she loaded three of the women who had gone mad into a box-on-wheels (designed like a jail cell) and headed east. Add them up—one god-fearing, religious lady, one over-the-hill, self-serving GEEZER, and three screaming, female lunatics—great theater!
Homesman stars Tommy Lee Jones (one of my absolute favorites) who also wrote, directed, and probably paid for the movie. Also stars Hillary Swank who was called “Plain as an old tin pail” (she’s not—she just doesn’t have any makeup on) in the movie. Meryl Streep, James Spader, and John Lithgow who all did an excellent job in cameo roles.
The movie is a series of gut wrenching, disturbing scenes, which I hope you will feel were worth your sticking to the end. What you take away from this movie is your business.