After premiering to mixed (though generally positive) reviews at Cannes earlier this year, Tommy Lee Jones’s western The Homesman seems to have found a more appreciative audience in a place more geographically proximate to the film’s setting. The western is, after all, a decidedly American genre, Italian directorial imports notwithstanding. Tonal fluctuations in the film still seem to bother some and hold the film back from any kind of greatness, but it seems Telluride audiences have been more embracing of the ragtag nature of Jones’s throwback picture, and have been particularly complementary of Hilary Swank’s leading role. We’ll caution that there’s a long way yet to go in the run up to awards season, but it seems Swank has at least assured herself a preliminary consideration with her work in The Homesman.
The Homesman is based on a 1988 novel of the same name, written by Glendon Swarthout, which has been floating around Hollywood pretty well since its publication. Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) initially scooped up the film rights, but never got the project off the ground. Jones scooped up the rights in 2012.
The story follows a woman (Swank) in the frontier Nebraska territory to whom falls the responsibility of transporting three mentally ill women up to Iowa. She enlists the help of an aging local ne’er-do-well to help her, and (as Swarthout’s website puts it), “Thus begins a trek East, against the flow of the country, against hardship, Indian attacks, ice storms, loneliness, and the unceasing aggravation of a disparate group of mad women.”
The film also features appearances by Meryl Streep, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, and Grace Gummer, among other recognizable faces.
The Homesman will play later this month at TIFF before a limited release on October 3rd, to be followed by a wide expansion on November 7th.