Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Homesman" (Film Review)

A movie is either worth seeing or it's not. Some may only warrant a single viewing but that's still enough for a recommendation. Some are a waste of time and some are an outright insult. And some, like this one, are both.

The plot is three crazy women on the plains of 19th century Nebraska need to be transported back east because they are beyond the means of their husbands to take care of. But you get to spend two hours with them! I don't know how it ends because I didn't make it that far. I was bored and had to pee, then I kept on walking. Felt good to step back outside into the light. I felt as if a weight had lifted from my shoulders.

Where do I start with this? First, the crazy women weren't really mentally ill. It would be more accurate to say they were someone's idea of crazy, hitting all the stereotypes. One refused to talk, staring out the window all day long. Refused to even use the outhouse - not that there was any proof she even ate! The second was a "God will strike you down" type, lunging and screaming and wailing, etc. The last was into all sorts of self-mutilation - which we got to watch! ***Graphic warning ahead*** Best scene, of course, was the infanticide of throwing the baby in the outhouse hole and hearing it wail. If it hadn't so obviously been a doll I'd of left on the spot.

These were crazy women like bad guys are in a "Die Hard" film: one dimensional caricatures that need to be disposed of. And if the attrition rate of that tiny Nebraska settlement was indicative of the west in general then there should have been dozens of wagons of crazy women being taken back east, perhaps all running into one another.

Can't you tell we're craaaaazy!

Tommy Lee Jones, who directed, plays his usual irascible character (in this case Wile E. Coyote). His comic relief amounts to little more than bottom-feeding pandering. Whenever an actor has the thought, "Oh, they're gonna love this!" running through his head, he's off base. Show me what you love. And because Tommy can't stand to share the stage, the film's protagonist Hillary Swank offs herself for no reason halfway through. Lord, what a mess this was! I left at that point.

I think they really expected this film to have meaning. One idiot reviewer spoke (gasped) of the movie exposing the harsh conditions of pioneer life and the untold price women and children paid. That's a sweet piece of propaganda but nothing in this film is tied to reality. This film - and I suspect the novel it's based on - is nothing more than a meaningless martyr in search of a cross, sort of like the "They're attacking Christmas!" crowd who fight phantoms in their head.

I really liked Tommy Lee's directorial debut, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada". That truly was an unvarnished look at modern rural life set in cheap diners and tawdry lives that usually get very little screen time except as props. I was hoping he would take that same approach to the everyday existence of pioneer life with its small victories and tragedies that oscillate day to day. There really is a story there. We didn't get that here. All we got was cheap pulp.

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