Cannes Flashback: Cannes Premieres of Life Itself, Foxcatcher and The Homesman

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“The Homesman,” directed by Tommy Lee Jones, is an interesting take on the female homesteader going west during the settling of America. Hilary Swank gives us a character we haven’t seen before in a western. She’s strong, independently wealthy and very capable, but not a cowgirl. She’s smart and cultured, but she needs a man to help her share the burden of cultivating the land and herding her cattle. Her problem is that her plain looks and take charge demeanor gets her labeled as bossy, making her too much for any man to handle. I loved Hilary Swank’s acting in this movie, the way her pinched expression telegraphed her painful, naked vulnerability, and the determined way she sweeps her floors and bakes her pies, making everything perfect for the husband she hopes will come. 

But I was disappointed by the film’s handling of the three women who have been driven insane by the rigors of the old west. They are suffering variously from postpartum depression and other ills, and it is up to Hilary Swank to take them back to the east to be treated for their mental illness. These women are played by very strong actresses, but their characters as written are never fully realized. They are treated more as plot points to keep the action moving. Also, although Tommy Lee Jones’ craggy face and Texas twang makes her perfect in a western, this particular direction of “The Homesman” is inconsistent in tone. It’s light and humorous in parts, cartoonish in others, serious and sympathetic later. I like this movie, but I doubt that it’s a serious contender for the Palme d’Or. But now, with his take on “The Homesman” and two other Cannes films is our Far Flung Correspondent for RogerEbert.com, Michał Oleszczyk…

…Last night was so exciting when they screened the documentary about Roger, “Life Itself,” here at Cannes, and here is a note I wrote to Roger about the event…

Dear Roger,

Today was the first day that rain had fallen all week, and I was uncharacteristically nervous all day before the screening, even as I was getting ready to go to the Palais…

…It turns out I was nervous for good reason. The screening started out perfectly, with a packed house of old friends and lots of fans we had never met…

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