Film: The Straight Story

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Film:

The Straight Story

Director: David Lynch
Genres:
Distributor: Walt Disney Video

Throughout The Straight Story, 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) gazes calmly at the night sky, as if the stars were reflections of his own memories. Alvin’s eyesight is bad and his daughter (Sissy Spacek) is slightly retarded and unable to drive, so he’s traveling from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin on a riding John Deere lawn mower. It’s slow going, so there’s plenty of time to stop for the night and ponder the cosmos. Alvin’s journeying to visit his ailing brother; they haven’t spoken in years, and it’s time to make peace. Along the…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Throughout The Straight Story, 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) gazes calmly at the night sky, as if the stars were reflections of his own memories. Alvin’s eyesight is bad and his daughter (Sissy Spacek) is slightly retarded and unable to drive, so he’s traveling from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin on a riding John Deere lawn mower. It’s slow going, so there’s plenty of time to stop for the night and ponder the cosmos. Alvin’s journeying to visit his ailing brother; they haven’t spoken in years, and it’s time to make peace. Along the way, he befriends a variety of nice folks, and you have to ask yourself…Is this really a David Lynch movie?

It’s a miracle that this G-rated Disney film was made by a director whose work is often described as twisted and bizarre. But Lynch is too complex an artist to be labeled, and he brings charm, grace, and kindness to his fact-based telling of The Straight Story—not to mention a serenity rarely found in movies anymore. It’s a film of moments—funny, odd, quietly spiritual—and this simple tale of a man, a lawnmower, and rural hospitality becomes a genuine Lynchian odyssey, unlike any film you’ve seen but as welcoming as a cup of lemon tea with honey. Best of all, it’s a fitting tribute to the career of veteran stuntman-actor Farnsworth who, at age 79, plays Alvin Straight to sheer perfection, his face a subtle roadmap to a broad spectrum of emotional destinations. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

The real-life odyssey of an Iowa farmer inspired this warm and gentle 1999 drama—a love letter to America’s heartland directed with uncharacteristic subtlety by maverick filmmaker David Lynch (Twin Peaks). The late Richard Farnsworth, erstwhile movie stuntman and dependable character actor, brings quiet dignity to the role of Alvin Straight, an ailing 73-year-old determined to reconcile with his estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton). Having lost his driver’s license, Straight undertakes the 300-mile journey to his sibling’s Wisconsin home via lawnmower, alternately helping and being helped by various people along the way. This spare, episodic tale is staged with deceptive simplicity by Lynch, who brings a Norman Rockwell sensibility to his scene compositions and coaxes relaxed, understated performances from his actors. Not unlike a Frank Capra film (but minus the hokum), The Straight Story paints a benign portrait of rural and small-town America that reaffirms our belief in the essential decency of our neighbors. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Album:The Straight Story: Music from the Motion Picture

The Straight Story: Music from the Motion Picture

Angelo Badalamenti

We’ve come to expect a few things from composer Angelo Badalamenti’s numerous collaborations with David Lynch. His scores for Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, and Blue Velvet all took a smoky jazz-noir aesthetic into the orchestra pit. The results were memorable—and sometimes haunting—just like the films. For The Straight Story—the G-rated (yes, that’s right) tale of an elderly man’s epic journey on a John Deere lawnmower to see his sick brother—we get a different side to both the composer and the director once again. Here the…

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