Tommy Lee Jones has turned into a pretty fair filmmaker in his later career. And Hilary Swank has emerged as a probable heir to Meryl Streep and Hepburn — so committed, so immersive, that it’s rare that she turns up in a film in which you aren’t thinking, “Could this be another Oscar for her?” She aims high, commits and often, the result is dazzling.
“Homesman” is Jones’ adaptation of a story about a stoic, “plain” single woman running a farm on the desolate, treeless prairie of pre-Civil War Nebraska charged with getting three farmwives who have gone mad out there where the winters are murderous, the baking summers unrelenting, the hardships many and the loneliness a trial. When I was in grad school in North Dakota, I read quite a few accounts of exactly this sort of thing happening — people going crazy under these conditions, and “Homesman” feels just so right in its depiction of that phenomenon.
Jones plays the itinerant rascal she blackmails into helping her. It’s as iconic a Western as any cattle drive tale or outlaws on the run epic. Five people, a wagon, winter lingering in May and many tests to endure before their journey is done.
Questions for Jones and Swank? I’m talking with them about “Homesman” and the world their characters today and would love some suggestions. Comment below.