Directed by David Lynch. 112 mins.
Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)
Wow, what a difference 15 years and a big screen can make.
I was ten years old when I first watched a VHS of Richard Farnsworth’s swan song in my parents’ living room. At the time, I thought that it was run-of-the-mill “based on a true story” Disney fare. This evaluation ranks among one of young Patrick’s many dumb opinions because upon seeing a 35mm screening, The Straight Story is a bizarre, beautiful tale that’s near the top of Lynch’s filmography (Lost Highway is still my personal favorite) and one of the best American films of the 90s.
Alvin Straight is the most interesting, fleshed-out character that Lynch ever tackled – as much as I love Frank Booth, Bobby Peru, Dick Laurent, and company, none of them were engaging on a sentimental level. While the film only shows Alvin’s famous lawn tractor ride across the Midwest to see his estranged brother, it tells far more of his story. Learning about both the joy and pain that Straight harbors is every bit as gripping as Lynch’s noirish, fractured realities in his other films. I can’t imagine anyone but Farnsworth in the role – he’s damn close to perfect.
While the substance of The Straight Story isn’t obvious Lynch territory, it’s very much a tale of the darkness that lives beneath the surface of its “All American” locales (very much like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks). The style, however, is clearly Lynchian. All of the wide-angle shots, unsettling ambient noise, superfluous fire, awkward conversations, quirky characters, and original music by Angelo Badalamenti are all here. Sissy Spacek is particularly wonderful as Rose, Alvin’s mildly autistic daughter.
If you’re a Lynch fan and haven’t yet seen The Straight Story, I haven’t the faintest idea why you’re stalling. Now that you’ve read this piece, ignorance is no excuse. Lawn tractor, don’t walk, to your nearest video store (or Web site, let’s be honest) and check it out!
(Seen on 2014-03-09, written on 2014-03-13)