Directed by Tommy Lee Jones
Ms. Hen does not usually like Westerns, and she doesn’t like Hillary Swank either, but she saw the preview for HOMESMAN, and she was intrigued. She became interested in the story of the three women in the Nebraska Territory who went mad after a long, painful winter.
Hillary Swank’s character, the pious, unmarried and outspoken Mary Bee Cuddy is recruited to escort the women to Iowa to meet with the wife of a minister who takes care of people with mental illnesses.
The film opens with Cuddy making dinner for her neighbor; Ms. Hen was pleased the pioneer was making fried chicken. Cuddy asks her neighbor to marry her because she thinks they would make a good match with their farms, because she has land and knows how to manage money, but he turns her down flat because he says she is too plain, and he tells her he plans to go back East to find a wife.
As Ms. Hen said before, she doesn’t like Hillary Swank, but she is perfect for this part. She is headstrong and capable of taking charge of her life and situation. She blackmails George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) into taking the three insane women to Iowa because she feels like she needs a man’s protection on the journey. She cuts him down from the rope from which he was hanging that some men did to him after they caught him jumping a claim, taking someone else’s house while he was away. She tells him she’ll cut him down, but she has a job for him. She doesn’t tell him what it is until he’s down.
Ms. Hen thought this was a women’s film. Great performances are given by Swank, and the three women she escorts, Grace Gummer as Arabella Sours, Miranda Otto as Grace Belknap and Sonja Ritcher as Gro Svendson. Meryl Streep appears at the end as the minister’s wife in Iowa. Ms. Hen thinks this is an important film, because the mentally ill are not usually portrayed in such films as Westerns. But this isn’t a typical Western.
Ms. Hen thought this film wasn’t like a Western because most seem to be phony, completely unlike what the real Wild West was like. Ms. Hen doesn’t know what the real West was like, but she knows it wasn’t like BONANZA. This film seemed like it was similar to what the authentic West: dangerous, but beautiful, and full of daring people ready to start a new life in a new place. There were dangers such as Indians, stray settlers, and hostile hoteliers. The rules were different in the Wild West than they are today, where the law of the land didn’t exist, and nobody cared what could be enforced, they were out for themselves to survive and get by day to day.
This film is tragic and sad, but not in an unexpected way. Women were supposed to want to be like women and Mary Bee Cuddy doesn’t think she could get married and be like other women. George Biggs redeems himself and brings music to Mary who loved music and dreamed of a piano before she went on the journey with the women.
Ms. Hen loved this film because it was different, not like most Hollywood films. She discovered that it was a French and American production, and she decided that is why she enjoyed it, since it was French. The quiet power of this film lurks beneath the surface, a story of duty, longing and sacrifice. Ms Hen recommends this film, but be prepared for a reflection of reality.