Blu-ray Review: The Homesman

You know how difficult it is to get a film into theatres in the past decade of cinema? Unless she’s going to vie for a third Oscar, Hilary Swank goes direct to video with nearly anything she does. For an actress with such regular acclaim, and regular attempts at going after Meryl Streep’s record tying three, Swank regularly hits the DTV market as often as Steven Seagal it seems. When she does get a film into theatres, it seems, she seems to be aiming for awards as opposed to box office dollars.

Hence why she’d take the lead of a western, a feminist western at that, which all but screamed “GIVE ME SOME METAL TROPHIES!” to a season that virtually ignored her (and the film) over the winter.

Simple premise. Cuddy (Swank) is tasked with taking three women who’ve gone crazy to a church in Iowa that’ll take care of them from their native Nebraska. She recruits George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones, who doubles as the film’s director and one of the screenwriters), a claim jumper about to be hung for an assortment of crimes. Saving him from the hangman’s noose, the two team up to bring the women many miles via wagon. From there the two have to work together to keep three crazy women safe, themselves safe and somehow manage to survive the rugged frontier of the 1850s midwest.

The problem with The Homesman is that it’s trying too hard to be a prestige picture, with Swank in full “Awards season” mode, as it’s filled with big moments intended to be featured in the trailer and the “big scene as they announce their name” and not enough of the quiet moments that make a fully featured character. For all the film gets right, from the brutal nature of the West to Tommy Lee Jones making a female-centric Western that doesn’t pander to that demographic, this film feels like it is pandering to the demographic that’s going to vote for awards before anything else.

It’s odd because Tommy Lee Jones has seemingly been above that in his directorial career so far; his previous two works (The Sunset Limited and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) aren’t filled with these sorts of moments. It’s an odd choice as Jones, who wrote and directed the film, hasn’t been known to be blatantly Oscar hunting like The Homesman winds up doing.

Three Electronic Press Kit featurettes are included. Nothing of substance.

Lionsgate presents The Homesman. Directed by Tommy Lee Jones. Written by Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley Oliver based on the novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout. Starring Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones. Run Time: 122 minutes Rated R. Released. February 17, 2015.

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