It’s been a few years since Tommy Lee Jones directed the HBO movie Sunset Limited and over 8 years since his last film hit movie theaters, but it seems that he hasn’t lost a step. His film The Homesman premiered at Cannes and received generally good notices although it seems that the film could prove divisive or small when it hits a larger audience stateside.
Sasha Stone at Awards Daily praises the direction of Tommy Lee Jones and the choices he makes
The Homesman is an intricately designed film, unpredictable in its execution and refusing to conform to genre expectations. If anything, it comments on familiar tropes of western films with cold rebuke. Laced with sardonic humor but primarily stark and tragic, The Homesman proves Jones has become a formidable director. Exploring a topic close to his heart, the evils of our own imperialist past and the echoes of that evil which haunts our history today, Jones delivers a sensitive exploration of the plight of the downtrodden, particularly from the vantage of women — an angle most Hollywood films have all but abandoned. The Homesman is about our past, the crimes committed under the cloak of manifest, but it is also about the little told story of what those events did to the women who either tried to settle a homestead on their own, or else were taken there as young brides and meant to provide children and wifely duties for men.
Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy shares some love for Hilary Swank
In what’s probably her best big screen role since Million Dollar Baby, Swank is obliged to keep Mary Bee’s emotions in tight check, but the pain her valiant character bottles up emerges in piercing flashes to lasting effect.
Guy Lodge of Hitfix give major props to the film’s DP Rodrigo Prieto
Ace cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s dusty-hued compositions are as cleanly framed and perpendicularly aligned as the life Cuddy has built for herself. More than interior comforts or fair weather, she misses the trees back East; Prieto again stresses the region’s aggressive flatness in an opening-credit montage of exquisite yawning skies, with not much to speak of beneath.
Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist called the film awkwardly interesting
The actor-director is back at Cannes with “The Homesman,” an adaptation of the novel by Glendon Swarthout, and while ‘Three Burials’ certainly nodded at the Western, this is the full-fat version, full of settlers and pioneers and wagons and Indians. It’s also a much less fully-formed and complete picture than its predecessor, one that looks likely to prove divisive, and that’s unlikely to find a bigger crowd. But while it’s an awkward, uneven picture, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fascinating one.
Eric Kohn at Indiewire notes that though the movie is fascinating, that it doesn’t really come together
Adapting Glendon Swarthout’s novel, Jones constructs a hodgepodge of western pastiches and revisions without settling into a unified groove. It ranks as one of the strangest projects of the 66-year-old Jones’ career—as well as the most unorthodox entry in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Curiously funny when it’s not tragic or bluntly sentimental, “The Homesman” is one of the weirdest American westerns since Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man,” though hardly as cohesive. Jones’ alternately skillful and irreverent approach results in a mixed bag of possibilities, with many terrifically entertaining on their own even as the overall picture remains muddled.
THE HOMESMAN finds new facets in the Western. It’s scratchy in places but keeps on asking difficult questions. Helluva movie #Cannes
— Tom Charity (@VIFFSTER) May 18, 2014
The Homesman: did TLJ take a part in The Family so Luc Besson would produce this sturdy if unremarkable Western, or vice versa? #Cannes
— William Goss (@williambgoss) May 18, 2014
Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman is a fine Western. More commercial than Three Buriels but doesn’t reach that artistic level. #Cannes2014
— gregoryellwood (@HitFixGregory) May 18, 2014
THE HOMESMAN (Jones) Eastward the Women Led by spinster and oaf To become mother and father. External trails Without interior being. — Peter Labuza (@labuzamovies) May 18, 2014
I’m still not sure what I feel about The Homesman. It’s Jones’ best made film. Authentic. But what am I supposed to feel in the end? #cannes
— David Poland (@DavidPoland) May 18, 2014