I like Westerns; I like Hillary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones. They are good at what they do, so I settled back with a smile to spend the evening with them in the Wild West. It didn’t take long to realize that something was wrong–the land was too barren, the town too small and the settlers too few. Swank plays, Mary Bee Cuddy, a strong, stalwart, spinster tilling her own land and wanting more than anything a man, for various reasons. Jones plays, George Briggs, a good-for-nothing drifter whom Cuddy finds hanging from a tree (the only tree I believe within a hundred miles) getting ready to offer up his last breath. (I know what you’re thinking, but forget it.) As the story proceeds, Cuddy has volunteered–for want of a valiant ‘Townsman’ to do so–to take three immigrant women who had become quite mad, across the barren plain to get help. Briggs comes along—not because he feels any debt to Cuddy for saving his life but because she agrees to pay him.
From this point on, ‘Homesman’ makes no sense and don’t wait for it to do so. Cuddy picks up these immigrant women, who couldn’t hack it on the barren plain, in a wood-enclosed wagon with no windows and a lock on the door. They are handcuffed inside in their flimsy nightgowns, and at least one has no shoes. There is no baggage and even few supplies for this barren plain adventure—I’m beginning to worry.
Along the way, they get hungry and BEHOLD! on this barren plain, with absolutely nothing around but barrenness, sits a Victorian Hotel that looks very much like a gingerbread house. Inside is the innkeeper, James Spader, with a full staff preparing a feast and acting much like that rabbit who was always late in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Next, the little party arrives at a thriving Western town and Briggs delivers his looney cargo to Meryl Streep, the minister’s wife. “Aha,” I say aloud, a smirk on my face, “You can’t fool me. You may think you look like Meryl Streep in that bouffant black dress and pretty little black bonnet but I know you are really the Queen of Spades!”
I wait for Tommy Lee Jones, who directed the film, to put everything aright as he has so many times, but no, the movie ends as he dances a macabre jig and a wooden grave marker floats down the river.