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TOMMY LEE JONES DIRECTS THE HOMESMAN

year: 2014 rating: **
Right before the journey gets underway, a helpful blacksmith tells Hilary Swank’s Mary Bee Cuddy that the townsfolk like talking about death and taxes, but when “crazy” is brought up, everyone hushes…

That hush occurs way too often as Cuddy and reluctant hired-hand George Briggs, played by veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones, take three demented women across the barren landscape with a few obstacles including Indians and narrow minded white folk: yet when Briggs is really needed to alleviate the hopeless melancholy, he doesn't always deliver.

As director, Jones attempts a dark, brooding art house anti-Western, only there’s a mismatch of disturbing images and the odd couple relationship between the independent woman and the gruff rogue drifter: Clichés aside, the latter plays out a lot more natural. Too bad they weren't just hauling grain. While important catalysts, the human cargo distract from the two people we should have known much better.

THE HOMESMAN is nicely bookended with an intriguing setup, first learning about our assertive Plain Jane heroine and concluding with a table-turning epilogue. Unfortunately, the hard trail in-between is but a tedious stretch of prolonged, awkward silence.
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