Sundays are meant to be spent relaxing in bed with tea and croissant, and then fuelling up the entire day with Pinot Grigio while you lounge around in your shorts and flip-flops under the sun. But no – I was already descending into the Palais at 7am to catch The Homesman by Tommy Lee Jones, who hasn’t been in the Croisette since his 2005 debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, making a sort-of-comeback into the scene after his gloomy Oscar face that’s been memed to death all over the Internet.
Well, at least the first half of The Homesman can be considered a comeback before it marches into broad, silly territory. The first 60 minutes would very much likely appeal to Jane Campion, this year’s festival jury president, with the film’s quietly subversive, feminist slant that’s rare in the Western genre. There’s Hilary Swank (who hasn’t been this good for quite a while) who’s tasked with an unenviable mission to chaperone three mentally ill women across the Nebraskan plains into Iowa with nothing but a wagon. The film is strong when it tries to subvert conventional Western tropes, and fiercely indicative of the individualism of Swank’s character Mary Bee Cuddy – but as soon as she hits the road, along with Jones’ titular company Briggs, it transforms into a road movie doubling a buddy comedy that doesn’t quite work. It doesn’t help that the three wives driven to insanity have nothing much else to do other than act like your typical loony bin types, and Swank’s obsession with marriage, while poignant at first, is treated like a laughing matter through the course of the film. There’s a scene of her that borders in desperation, asking Jones to hit the sack and tie the knot with her that’s crippingly embarrassing (or unintentionally hilarious).
Rodrigo Prieto’s photography is stunning and Meryl Streep appears briefly in the end, but those aren’t enough to save the picture entirely. What The Homesman sorely lacks is a dramatic punch and a much better conclusion.
Afterwards, I stepped out of the Palais only to be greeted with the show-stopping Côte d’Azur sunshine, so I gave in to the temptation of skipping a screening and headed to the beach right away. I’ve mostly spent the last four days in darkness, so a bit of baking under the sun has become a necessity.
I even went swimming in the invigorating Mediterranean sea, too. But that was an all-too-brief holiday relaxation time as I dried and dressed myself up and started queuing into David Cronenberg’s latest, the hotly anticipated Maps to the Stars, two hours prior to the screening only to not get in. For some reason, the festival organisers have put a Cronenberg film in Salle Debussy, a cinema with 1,000+ seating capacity that’s inferior to Grand Théâtre Lumière‘s 2,300+ seats, accommodating 4,000+ accredited journalists. Anyone with some semblance of common sense would know that Cronenberg is a major festival draw and would allocate Cannes’ biggest venue to his film. It’s practically similar to what happened last year to the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, where I queued up three times and managed to get in at the final furlong.
All hope is not lost yet – but for now, I’m guzzling up that Pinot Grigio because at this moment, this festival sucks major balls.