First Hit: A well-acted slow evolving film that seems to end in mid-sentence.
Hilary Swank as Mary Bee Cuddy is anything but plain, although the makeup personnel did their best. I think she is and was interestingly beautiful in this film.
Here she is a single smart capable and headstrong woman who is making her way as a farmer in the desolation of “the territories” (later known as Nebraska). She propositions men for marriage by announcing her assets (money in the bank, two strong mules and land) but they decline saying she’s as “plain as a pail” and “bossy”.
The harsh winters have caused three women to “go crazy”. However, to me it was the men who pushed these women towards their craziness by being thoughtless. Anyway, Cuddy decides to take them back to Iowa where they can be with their families.
To help her on this journey she employs George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) who is just surviving by cheating and stealing. How they meet is a hoot and sets up their relationship perfectly. Together they set out to take Anabella Sours (Grace Gummer), Theoline Belknap (Miranda Otto), and Gro Svendsen (Sonja Richter) to Iowa so that they can be reunited with their families.
The trip is about the relationship between Cuddy and Briggs and how they survive the long trip through the cold, desolation and their ability to become friends while minding their precious cargo. What was fittingly odd, was the ending – would Briggs have closure or would he just do what was next.
Swank is amazing and could get an Oscar nod. Jones is amazingly strong and he also wrote and directed this film. Gummer, Otto and Richter were good in their limited but strategically important roles. Kieran Fitzgerald co-wrote the longish film with Jones who also directed this film with some great prairie visuals and some very interesting one on one scenes.
Overall: I didn’t love this film, but watching great actors act was worth the time.