Recently I read a comment about how Westerns were a dying breed, how the film genre was pretty much a forgotten and abandoned one. In all realities, this is correct. Still, every once in a while a Western comes along that makes one take pause and wonder why, in fact, the genre is dying. Sure, the relevance of the dusty Western of yesteryear is not immediately prevalent, and yet there is a beauty, a stark relevance that can be nurtured from the genre, and some films have proven this with stunning results.
‘The Homesman’ is one of those films.
Sharply told, ‘The Homesman’ tells the story of a tough frontier woman who takes on a task better suited (in the eyes of many) for a man; escorting three crazy women across the prairie so they can receive proper care. This woman is Mary Bee Cuddy, a middle aged woman who is plain and gruff and alone. She desperately wants to marry and complete the life that she feels is destined for her, and yet she cannot seem to persuade anyone to take her as their bride. When the opportunity arises for need to journey east, she takes it. On her way, she encounters a drunk hanging from a noose; literally. She rescues him from an early grave and in return he offers to accompany her on her journey.
It is on that journey that both of their lives are changed due to one another.
While most of the buzz with regards to the film was heaped upon Swank (who is VERY good here, best she’s been in a decade), the real crux of the film lies on Jones and his portrayal of the salty George Briggs. Here is a man who begins the journey a gruff and abrasive narrow-minded individual but who exits it completely salvaged, saved within the understanding of his ways and how they needed to be altered. You can see this man slowly melt away, the exterior shell of massaged in beliefs drifting into the air as his eyes and mind is opened to the tribulation of the flesh and all that he has the ability to alter.
Guilt will wreck a soul.
‘The Homesman’ has a few snags, mostly in the pacing, which could have been condensed and a tad sharper, but it carries with it a real soul, real depth. The ensemble is astonishing, from the largest parts to the simplest, smallest turns, and the score accompanied by the beautiful scenery creates a lush and moving atmosphere. This is what Westerns should look like, and this is why they shouldn’t leave us for good.