Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman is a fantastic film that feels sadly destined to disappear. Despite being in competition for the Cannes Films Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or last May, The Homesman suffered a piss-poor theatrical distribution, and will likely soon fade out of theaters, thereby slipping past audiences.
The film is a revisionist western about a lonely and depressed woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) who volunteers to transport three insane women from their homes in Nebraska to a mental health care facility in Iowa. There are potential risks on this journey. Bad weather, vengeful Native Americans, rapists, thieves – you name it. Shortly into the film, Mary Bee saves the life of George Briggs (Jones), who in return, agrees to help Mary Bee make the trip.
Directed and co-written by Jones, The Homesman is emotionally brutal, unapologetically cynical and utterly thrilling. It also boasts one of 2014’s most notable ensemble casts. If you have a chance to see The Homesman, do check it out. Maybe this cast alone will be all the reason you need to give the film a go.
Role in The Homesman: Buster Shaver, a townsmen Briggs meets on the way.
Notable Roles: WarGames, Northern Exposure, The Big Easy, One Tree Hill, In the Valley of Elah
Best Role: His single scene in No Country for Old Men, as Tommy Lee Jones’ wheelchair-bound uncle, is so quietly astonishing. You can just feel that man’s loneliness.
Role in The Homesman: Thor Svendsen, the horrific husband of one of the insane women.
Notable Roles: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (both Swedish and US versions), Brotherhood, A Royal Affair
Best Role: I’ve liked Dencik in everything I’ve seen him in (he plays a monster in The Homesman), but I’m particularly drawn to his “Poorman” from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Role in The Homesman: Vester Belknap, another spineless husband of one of the women.
Notable Roles: The Underneath, Heat, Armageddon, Go, Black Hawk Dawn, Crash
Best Role: His brief by startling role as a deaf widow in Nine Lives is something that, once seen, you can’t forget. (Read my breakdown of Nine Lives here.)
Role in The Homesman: Arabella Sours, one of the women being transported.
Notable Roles: Larry Crowe, Frances Ha, The Newsroom, American Horror Story
Best Role: Easily her tragically repressed Arabella from The Homesman. If you only know Gummer from The Newsroom, she’ll floor you in this film.
Role in The Homesman: Bob Giffen, a would-be suitor for Mary Bee.
Notable Roles: Jarhead, Glory Road, Lucky You, The Express, The Book of Eli
Best Role: As perpetual fuck up Cheddar Bob in 8 Mile.
Role in The Homesman: George Briggs, the gruff journeyman who helps Mary Bee transport the women.
Notable Roles: Coal Miner’s Daughter, JFK, The Fugitive, Natural Born Killers, Men in Black, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, No Country for Old Men
Best Role: Tough call. As a tired and despondent military father looking for answers in In the Valley of Elah. I’m so drawn to his hard-earned melancholy in that film.
Role in The Homesman: Carmichael
Notable Roles: Under Siege, Blue Sky, Lone Star, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Bernie
Best Role: Jones doesn’t typically appear in a film for very long, but he’s always a reliable presence. So, because it’s fresh in my mind, I’ll go with his Grandpa Cliff from Boyhood. Who didn’t get a kick out of watching Grandpa Cliff give Mason a gun for his birthday?
Role in The Homesman: Reverend Dowd, a kind man praying for Mary Bee’s safe travels.
Notable Roles: Obsession, All That Jazz, Blow Out, Terms of Endearment, Footloose, Cliffhanger, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dexter, Kinsey, Love Is Strange, Interstellar
Best Role: Jesus, how can you pick? Such a varied and impressive career. I’m going to do a full profile on Lithgow soon, and until then, I need a few more days to make up my mind.
Role in The Homesman: The Freighter, a deadly obstacle Mary Bee and Briggs encounter.
Notable Roles: The Thin Red Line, Minority Report, The Good Girl, Syriana, The Incredible Hulk, Lincoln
Best Role: Gotta be good ol’ Delmar from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Gopher, Everett?
Role in The Homesman: Theoline Belknap, one of the women being transported.
Notable Roles: What Lies Beneath, Human Nature, The Lord of the Rings saga, War of the Worlds, Rake
Best Role: Who can forget Otto’s devastating turn as the sole female in The Thin Red Line? She hardly utters a word on screen, yet she rips our damn guts out.
Role in The Homesman: Garn Sours, a kind soul in a film with very few of them.
Notable Roles: Observe and Report, Paul, The Master, Breaking Bad, Olive Kitteridge
Best Role: I love Jesse Plemons. Absolutely love the guy. It’s damn tough to beat his lovable psychopath in Breaking Bad, but I’m still partial to his fearless work on Friday Night Lights.
Role in The Homesman: Gro Svendsen, the most haunting of the three women being transported.
Notable Roles: In Your Hands, Open Hearts, Cecilie
Best Role: Her Homesman character, no question. The shit that Gro Svendsen endures in this film… I still can’t remove it from my mind.
Role in The Homesman: Aloysius Duggy, a smug hotel owner who makes the mistake of offending Briggs.
Notable Roles: Less Than Zero, Stargate, Crash, Secretary, The Practice, Boston Legal, The Office, The Blacklist
Best Role: Graham from Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Such a creepy and misunderstood little bastard.
Role in The Homesman: Tabitha Hutchinson, a spiteful young woman Briggs comes across.
Notable Roles: Hateship Loveship, Begin Again, Ender’s Game
Best Role: Mattie Ross from True Grit. It was a damn tough year, but I would’ve loved if she won the Oscar in 2011.
Role in The Homesman: Altha Carter, a reverend’s wife who is set to take in the three troubled women.
Notable Roles: Manhattan, Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Silkwood, Adaptation, The Hours, Angels in America, The Devil Wears Prada, August: Osage County
Best Role: The Deer Hunter. For me, it’ll always be Linda from The Deer Hunter. The sadness in her eyes.
Role in The Homesman: Mary Bee Buddy, the brave soul who volunteers for the journey.
Notable Roles: Beverly Hills 90210, The Gift, Insomnia, Million Dollar Baby, Conviction
Best Role: The helpless and doomed Brandon Teena in Boy’s Don’t Cry. The very definition of a star-making turn.