Friday movie pick

by chuckofish

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I read this book back in the 1980s and really liked it. It is the haunting story of Mary Bee Cuddy, a spinster pioneer in Nebraska, who takes it upon herself (because a man cannot be found to do it) to transport three women back East. The women have been driven insane by their terrible, tragic lives on the plains. Mary Bee enlists claim-jumping George Briggs to help her.

I have been waiting for Hollywood to make it into a movie ever since. Word was that Paul Newman had an option on it, but nothing came of that. Finally it was announced that Tommy Lee Jones was going to star in and direct it: “Soon to be a major motion picture.”

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But then…cue sound of crickets. Why does Hollywood do this? It was released last year with little or no fanfare and sunk like a rock (I guess) after a weak opening. Straight to DVD soon after. If it wasn’t for IMDB.com, I never would have run across it. But it is a really good movie! Hilary Swank gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Why was she overlooked? It is well-directed by Tommy Lee Jones–understated and well-paced.  The cinematography is beautiful. There are cameos by some excellent actors. Even Meryl Streep has a small role–I suppose she agreed to do it because Tommy Lee is a friend and her daughter got a part.

They changed a few things in the book–Lord knows why. I wouldn’t have. And, yes, the book is better. The book usually is. But I recommend this movie. It has stayed with me. It is my Friday pick.