TELLURIDE — I didn't quite know what to say or think about Tommy Lee Jones' "The Homesman" after catching up with it Sunday afternoon, but I was pretty sure I loved it. Gorgeously shot by Rodrigo Prieto, lovingly scored by Marco Beltrami, enigmatically captured by Jones, the film almost becomes a series of vignettes at some point, dealing in western iconography in ways both familiar and foreign, truly a piece of work from the same voice that gave us "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada."
It's actress Hilary Swank who is getting the tribute here this year but I think maybe Jones could have dealt with that sort of coronation. He's expert behind the camera and in front of it, he carves out a truly memorable, off-kilter character I'd love to revisit in another story. But I'll just leave it at that for now. It's a strange film that settled, well, strangely, but I was really engaged by it from beginning to end.
One interesting nugget that surfaced during the post-screening Q&A was a note that director Steven Spielberg is thanked in the closing credits. Here is what Jones had to say about that:
"He asked to read the screenplay when I was writing it and was very encouraging about it. He wanted to see our camera tests when we took six, eight, maybe 10 cameras out to northeastern New Mexico to see which ones would observe the light best and be the most useful, and was very encouraging. I had my mind made up already, but he agreed with me, which I was very grateful for! Then I showed him a rough cut just before we locked the movie. He screened it at his house and I dropped by after he finished it and he was very encouraging then as well. He's a great pal. He knows a thing or two about movies and I appreciated his opinion. He was very supportive of me throughout the making of it."
We'll see if Roadside Attractions can land Hilary Swank in a seemingly thin Best Actress race, but I do think Tommy Lee Jones deserves to be in the conversation. I really should have mentioned him in my Best Actor piece because he delivers one of his most interesting performances in a number of years.
"The Homesman" opens in limited release Nov. 14.