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In westerns, women are usually bit players, relegated to fleeting domestic scenes before the men set out on adventure.On Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, Tommy Lee Jones premiered a western from a more female perspective. His “The Homesman” is about a single woman farmer (Hilary Swank) on the Nebraska plains during Westward expansion.Called “bossy” by suitors, the strong-willed Mary Bee Cuddy volunteers to take three women who have grown crazy on the desolate landscape to Iowa. She enlists an outlaw, played by Jones, to help on the weeks-long journey. Cuddy and the women are generally treated as mere cargo in the race West — which Jones said he considers historical roots to sexism today.

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