Becoming a man of “true grit” earned John Wayne his only Oscar back in 1970. Could the same broken heroism push Tommy Lee Jones into the Oscar conversation?
Adapted from Glendon Swarthout's novel and directed by the actor-turned-filmmaker, “The Homesman” pairs Jones with two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank for a dangerous western mission with a layer of gender politics. Shacked up with three mentally unstable women, Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) employs George Briggs (Jones), a claim jumper she finds dangling from a tree in a noose, to escort the band of lone ladies from the Nebraska Territories to a new home in Iowa. In 1854, it's a mission only a fool would take.
Our first official look at “The Homesman” has the makings of a solid western, gruff dialogue and deadly circumstances turned mesmerizing by “Argo” and “Babel” cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto's lush vistas. Jones and Swank have that Rooster Cogburn/Mattie Ross appeal, with Swank's reliable ferocity coming through full force.
Whether “The Homesman” will add to either actors' career accolades is questionable. The Best Actor category is already fully stocked and Jones's film didn't earn the highest praise out of Cannes. Earlier this year, Guy Lodge wrote in his review that the film was tonally off-balance, shifting “from loutish comedy to sticky sentimentality in the turn of a wagon-wheel.” The relationship between Cuddy and Briggs raised an eyebrow, too. “Their odd-couple banter, with the crusty old coot bewildered by the pluckily assertive independent woman, brings a hoary note of farce to proceedings, but also underlines traditional gender hierarchy in ways that may or may not be progressively critical.”
Check out the new trailer for “The Homesman” below. The film arrives Nov. 7.