Hilary Swank gives one of the best performances of the year in Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman. During the festival circuit it couldn’t quite catch a break. It screened opposite the first Birdman screening in Telluride and against the Selma/American Sniper screening at the AFI Fest. Despite that, reviews are beginning to trickle in. The ending, as expected, have given some critics pause, especially those who call it a feminist western. I’m not sure what that means as I could think of five different ways this movie might have become a feminist western. Those looking for that kind of correctional uplift are going to be in for a surprise. This film, as entertaining as it is, makes a stark statement about women and their worth then, and in many ways where Hollywood is concerned, now.
Anthony Lane of the New Yorker on The Homespun:
And yet what matters most about “The Homesman,” which Jones co-wrote and directed, is how willingly, and movingly, he cedes the stage to Hilary Swank, as Clint Eastwood did in “Million Dollar Baby.” She cuts the kind of figure who used to make Gary Cooper take off his hat, fiddle with the brim, and gaze in confusion at his boots. First rule of a tough guy: know when you’ve met your match.
Swank makes Mary Bee a tough spinster who knows how to handle herself. But Swank also captures the character’s longing for a man to swoop in and take care of her for once. Jones could play this role – the crusty, resourceful old miscreant – in his sleep but, to his credit, gives George Briggs a soul as well, one that reacts in moving ways to the intense vulnerability Swank allows to bubble to a boil.
Beautiful in a sparse, desolate way, “The Homesman” is a film that would seem to be anathema to a young audience: slow-moving, thought-provoking and studied in its pace. Its action is minimal because it focuses on the journey and its toll on those making it. Have patience, however, and you’ll be rewarded by a moving, thoughtful experience.