Tommy Lee Jones is a guy who is more likeable than he is interesting… such is his directorial venture The Homesman. Miss Cuddy, still painfully alone and unmarried, takes on the task (a task that the townspeople object is not a woman’s duty) of traversing the harsh and dangerous western plains to transport three severely mentally disturbed women from their homes and into safety in Iowa. She befriends a good for nothing drifter named George Briggs to help her with the journey. Despite the impending danger which apparently lies all around them, the twosome rarely end up encountering any true peril or sense of death. Much of the conflict which arises throughout the film is passed through with silent glances, some sinister music and then a total anti-climax. Even the moments of passion or sensuality have no bite nor pulp to them… they expand no further than cockamamy dialogue and Hilary Swank’s incredibly annoying facial expressions. Much like the climate and geography of the terrain Cuddy and Briggs travel through, the pallet of emotional resonance that paints this film never expands beyond beige, gray, brown, and a few hints of blue.
It is rather ironic and I should say a bit disappointing that a western which aims to break a path for feminism within the genre is a story with absolutely no teeth nor claws. It’s agreeable, and as Cuddy says of herself; plain. While Tommy Lee Jones certainly understands all the nuances of a western, and he has a brilliant precedent (check out his wonderful debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), one can’t help but believe that this film, in which majority of the showmanship comes from Jones himself acting out flamboyant and eccentric dances of his crazy character, tip-toes dangerously on the border of being self-indulgence which is another curious decision for a film which is supposed to concentrate on the humanity of its female characters. It’s an overall agreeable film, it works, and you’ll sleep well at night after watching it, but The Homesman isn’t a film you’re going to think much about, and I can’t say you’ll ever recommend it to anybody outside of die-hard “western” fans.