Sunday, December 16, 2012
The Straight Story
Alvin Straight (an Oscar-nominated Richard Farnsworth) lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) in Laurens, Iowa, when he receives a phone call that his estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke in Mt. Zion, Wisconsin. Alvin, not in the best of health either, resolves to see him before it's too late, but because of his bad eyesight, he cannot drive a car, and Rose is mildly retarded and no good behind a wheel either. Eventually, Alvin hitches a trailer to his lawn mower and begins his slow, steady trek across the state.
Blue Velvet and TV shows like Twin Peaks, Lynch finds corruption and evil hidden among seemingly perfect suburban facades, but in The Straight Story there is no rot beneath the surface, and that's a refreshing change of pace.
Being a Lynch movie , there remains some weirdness, although nothing dark or grotesque. The aforementioned woman who hit the deer claims she can't avoid crashing into them on the same stretch of road, and there are the bickering mechanic twins, but most of the different episodes along the way have a simple poignancy: a pregnant runaway that Alvin tells about the importance of family, a fellow veteran of the war also haunted by his experience, and the priest near the end who in a way hears Alvin's confession. At one point, Alvin finds himself being passed by a mass of cyclists in a cross-country race, and he makes camp with them that night. They ask what's the worst part about being old, and he says remembering when you were young. If you spend too much time regretting and thinking about the past, life will pass you by, and you're left all alone.
The cinematography by Freddie Francis is gorgeous. There are so many beautiful shots of the farmland country and small towns Alvin passes through. Also excellent is the music by composer Angelo Badalamenti. I'm not sure what attracted Lynch to this material or what inspired to film it, but I'm glad he did.