Film Review: The Homesman

I really don’t know where, or how to start this review. I am sure The Homesman, Tommy Lee Jones’s latest offering from both sides of the camera (writing, directing and providing a lead role) had been given good reviews. That people spoke highly of it, and while it’s been and gone from the big screen gaze for a while, I certainly wasn’t expecting the film I was treated to.

It’s been a very, very long time since a movie has left me feeling this surprised, shocked and disappointed. The Homesman just doesn’t seem to have a redeeming feature, and I was actually very close to walking out it was that bad. The only thing keeping me in my seat is the belief that you give a film a chance no matter how bad it appears, after all, the law of the universe states that the moment you give up on a film is the moment before it bursts into life and becomes a classic.

Tommy Lee Jones Directing - The Homesman

The Homesman though, will never burst into life and never become a classic. Nothing in this film seems to work or be fit together. Firstly there is a major fundamental problem in that there is no story. There is an shallow nod towards a plot but it’s just a series of loose events that are tied together to create a story. But it’s just not an exciting one. In fact, the story is boring. So boring I think I’ve set a new record for the number of times I looked at my watch praying for it to be nearly over.

Sometime you can get away with a basic outline of a story which is then never expanded if you use other tricks to keep the audience entertained, but that’s where you need a skilled director and Tommy Lee Jones just doesn’t deliver. The movie trudges along, one dimensionally paced, never conveying any sense of tension, emotion or suspense and the few moments when it has the chance, when it serves up the perfect opportunity to, it fails. Spectacularly. Not because it tries and falls short, but rather because it shies away. Every situation brushed past monotonously and without examination.

Hilary Swank & Tommy Lee Jones - The Homesman

And with a story that doesn’t gel or feel connected, you end up relying completely on the cast and characters to step up and grab the film by the scruff of the neck. But they don’t. And this makes things even worse, because the film is essentially trying to convey the changing relationship between Mary Bee Cuddy (played by Hilary Swank) and George Briggs (played with Tommy Lee Jones). A physical and mental journey of discovering. And they are two actors with enough credentials to inspire confidence that they could pull it off. But Swank spends the entire movie looking uncomfortable. She looks almost itchy. Desperate to get out of her period clothes and back into modern life. She never relaxes and therefore, you never do either. I never once believed in her or her character.

Tommy Lee Jones, feels more real, but sadly also manages to take this misplacement of character even further with a role that appears to change personality at will, sometimes appearing serious and in fitting with the surrounds and the story but then, without warning or need, drops down an octave to introduce a layer of comic lightness that doesn’t work. The jokes are at times funny but totally ill fitting to the film. It breaks the tone of the narrative completely and just left me confused as to how seriously I was meant to be taking the film.

Sonja Richter (Self Harm) - The Homesman

But that isn’t my biggest complaint. That is reserved for the structuring of the film. It just leaps backwards and forwards through the use of explanatory flashbacks which I am sure are designed to inform and answer but instead just confuse. I was honestly left at times wondering who or what was exactly going on and one flashback scene left me feeling uncomfortable, being both unnecessary and overly explicit. Everything can have its place in a story no matter how shocking or unpleasant as long as the context of tone are right. But in The Homesman, neither are present or correct.

There is just nothing in this film that works, and when it all combines the mess just becomes greater and greater. It might have salvaged something had I been able to see the original idea behind motives and reasons for the film but I couldn’t. Everything just felt individualised and removed. Little chunks thrown together in the hope a working story would emerge.

I can honestly say I haven’t seen a film this bad, disconnected or boring in a very, very long time. I truly cannot find anything to like. It’s overly long, slow, ponderous and lifeless. It’s bereft of a coherent story and really, is nothing more than a waste of an evening and the price of admission.

2 out of 10 stars (2 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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