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Critics reviews
The Homesman
Tommy Lee Jones United States, 2014
What makes The Homesman a western of great merit and substance isn’t its gorgeous window-dressings or sly subversions in iconography, but the emotional connection it manages to convey through its contemplative treatment of gender, longing and how the two consistently intertwine.
November 21, 2014
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At times The Homesman suggests a John Ford adaptation of Waiting for Godot—the desolation is so extreme that it practically feels absurd. (The film is not without humor, though it’s humor of a very dark sort.) …As the protagonists near their final destination, The Homesman offers a critique of civilization that’s almost as pessimistic as its critique of frontier life, suggesting that in every corner of America there have always been more losers than winners.
November 19, 2014
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I was impressed with how Jones’s uncomfortable mixing of tones in the first half of the film gave way to something more elegiac and evocative by the end. For much of its running time, The Homesman doesn’t quite seem to know where it’s going. But once it actually gets there, it attains a hardscrabble nobility.
November 15, 2014
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I was taken with this arid movie, which Jones directs with sugarless confidence. It’s Brittle House on the Prairie, a tribute to femininity and its misapprehensions… But then the plot turns and asks something of Mary Bee that is a complete betrayal of Swank’s performance and the radiance she emits. The development probably works in Glendon Swarthout’s novel of the same name, where Swank is nowhere in sight. But not in the theater.
November 14, 2014
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The Homesman has already been looked upon skeptically for what many see as its cowardly backtracking from the feminist tract implied by much of its running time. But, in addition to introducing a humanistic sense of dimensionality to Briggs’s otherwise monotonously sour character, Jones’s narrative gambit hints at the ways in which history has often been composed of half-hearted attempts at change that gradually wither back to stagnancy.
November 14, 2014
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Jones’ visual style is simple and clean, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto finds some gorgeous John Ford touches; people shown in black silhouette through barn doorways, or house doorways, with the vast bright landscape beyond, a clear demarcation between interior and exterior, displaying the individual against the sheer size of the land out there.
November 14, 2014
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Given this cramped, uneven adaptation, it’s impossible for Swank to suggest how close Cuddy comes to an emotional abyss. A climactic, movie-changing event brings the audience up short; as shot and cut, it’s not worthy of Cuddy’s anguished would-be odyssey. The script undercuts Briggs, too, by deleting the character’s perceptive analysis of how a take-charge masculine presence could unhinge a woman as proud and confident as Cuddy.
November 13, 2014
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Integrity and personality can go a long way, especially in a movie as unquestionably flawed as The Homesman. Tommy Lee Jones’ off-beat minor-key Western has plenty of virtues, but straightness isn’t one of them; at times, it seems like the movie is doing its goshdarnedest to stay crooked, resisting every opportunity to smooth itself out.
November 13, 2014
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Jones is no an eye-popping visual stylist, tending instead towards undressy, matter-of-fact presentation, aided in his subdued approach by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, whose last Western was Brokeback Mountain. Such a laconic perspective serves this Old West atrocity exhibition.
November 12, 2014
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Though The Homesman’s title refers to a man, and the film was written and directed by men, it’s primarily about women, in ways both fascinating and frustrating. At times, this unconventional Western verges on becoming one of the angriest feminist statements in recent memory… there’s a wishy-washiness to the film’s ideological bent that keeps steering things in a more conventional direction, as if Jones were afraid to take this risky material all the way.
November 11, 2014
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The first two acts of The Homesman are as ungainly and interesting as its main characters. The film enacts plenty of contradictions: It situates the model of a Strong Female Character alongside three other women who are exploited for suspense and shock value, places convincingly iconoclastic figures in tried-and-true western tropes, and manages to project a consistency of vision despite an erratic tone. All of this strange intrigue falls by the wayside in the final act…
November 09, 2014
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The strength of Cuddy’s character (performed with great poise by Swank) and the implications of the women’s insanity—through short “memory hits” (Jones’s term), the movie portrays the toxic influence of men—initially imbue The Homesman with a bracing feminist agenda. However, a truly shocking, late-breaking event repositions the entire movie; whether it compromises or cruelly asserts the aforementioned feminism is, perhaps to Jones’s credit, difficult to tell.
November 06, 2014
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The longer it goes, the clearer it is that Jones has got hold of something sharp about the West. This leads to a knockout of an ending, in which Briggs becomes the visual embodiment of a famous piece of American folk art, except that now we know the bitterness and loss behind the jolly image. A series of graves—desecrated, ransacked, unmarked—has led to Briggs’s moment of rude hilarity, and Jones won’t let us forget it.
November 03, 2014
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Tommy Lee Jones’s solemn western The Homesman rang intriguing changes on theAfrican Queen/True Grit theme of “righteous-schoolmarm-meets-grizzled-old-coot” (respectively, Hilary Swank and TLJ himself), but you suspect the film would have been sparkier if Clint Eastwood had made it 20 years ago.
May 24, 2014
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As an unmarried frontierswoman who helps bring three women to Iowa from Nebraska — they’ve been driven mad by life, death and men — Ms. Swank reminds you that her greatness as an actor is her gift for unforced sincerity. She brings a depth of feeling to the movie, which goes astray when its focus shifts from her character to Mr. Jones’s.
May 22, 2014
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Westerns are relatively rare these days, and for the first two-thirds or so, The Homesmanhas a lot going for it: It’s been beautifully shot (by Rodrigo Prieto), and the mere idea of a woman-centric western is intriguing. But The Homesman breaks faith with the audience via a surprise twist that makes no sense, given what we’ve come to learn about a certain character.
May 21, 2014
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Curiously funny when it’s not tragic or bluntly sentimental, “The Homesman” is one of the weirdest American westerns since Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man,” though hardly as cohesive. Jones’ alternately skillful and irreverent approach results in a mixed bag of possibilities, with many terrifically entertaining on their own even as the overall picture remains muddled.
May 18, 2014
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An unevenness of tone is perhaps the main problem, as the film switches sometimes awkwardly from amiable comedy to suspense, gentle sentimentality to a fiery celebration of rough justice. Not having read the Swarthout novel, I cannot say whether this was a flaw introduced by the script, but it does undermine the narrative’s overall thrust, as do some unexpected weaknesses in terms of performance… That said, the film is for the most part entertaining enough.
May 18, 2014
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The pieces throughout Jones’s work have seemed to be stitched from a dozen great westerns… all shot under Rodrigo Prieto’s rather beautiful compositions that feel rather indifferent to the action. If Jones wants to become a great director of a dying genre, he cannot simply hope to mimic what the masters did. He must instead explore the meaning of each image he creates.
May 18, 2014
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Jones… has an eye for sprawling Western landscapes (cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto gives the images the feel of burned-out early photographs). Yet the script… shifts uneasily between tragedy and comedy: a woman throws her baby into the pit of a latrine one moment, while Briggs and Cuddy trade barbs like an open range Tracy and Hepburn the next.
May 18, 2014
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