Tommy Lee Jones’ ‘The Homesman’ settles down with Saban Films

When Greg and I recently discussed the Oscar-season potential of the films we've seen thus far at the Cannes Film Festival, we were muted on the prospects for Tommy Lee Jones' western “The Homesman.” It's not that the film is beneath consideration. It's heartfelt stuff, beautifully mounted and well acted (particularly by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank), and has received generally respectable reviews (if few outright raves) from the Croisette critical collective. Any prizes from Jane Campion's jury on Saturday would be a surprise, but that rarely means much either way for the awards season ahead.

Rather, it seemed the film might be just a little too low-key — and, however interesting its female-hysteria premise, too tricky an audience sell — to secure the backing of a big-name distributor. And that appears to have been the case: where Jones' acclaimed 2005 debut feature “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” found a home with Sony Pictures Classics, “The Homesman” is taking a quieter path. Deadline reports that brand-new distributor Saban Films, a company that only set up shop last week, has taken North American rights to the film.

As first acquisitions go, it's a prestigious one, so hats off to Saban chief Bill Bromiley, who reportedly beat out some stiff competition to land the film. It remains to be seen what the new outfit can do for the film in terms of publicity and exposure. Unpractised doesn't always mean unsavvy, as the rapid rise of A24 Films, with their smart acquisitions and eye-catching marketing, has demonstrated over the last two years. No date has been pencilled in yet, but I'm interested to see how they proceed from here.

I described “The Homesman” as “taciturn and impressively composed” in my review on Sunday, with particularly praise for Swank and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto — if the film gathers any awards momentum at all, I'd expect them to be the beneficiaries.