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Cannes: ‘The Homesman’ Delivers Good Performances with a Few Mixed Feelings

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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.

 

 

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Written by Terence Johnson

When he's not enduring Shade Samurai training from Victoria Grayson, you can find Terence spends his time being an avid watcher of television, Criterion film collector, Twitter addict, and awards season obsessive. Opinionated but open minded, ratchet but with class, Terence holds down the fort as the producer of the Power Hour podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeNoirAuteur.

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