Stars: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek
“The Straight Story” is a simple tale told simply.
This Disney film stars Richard Farnsworth as 73 year-old Alvin Straight who, in 1994, rode a lawnmower 370 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his estranged and ailing brother.
This is the type of movie you luxuriate in like a warm bath. It’s not to be hurried. I can just picture director David Lynch telling his actors the same thing – ‘take your time’!
Farnsworth’s comfort level is high in this film; it’s as if it were made just for him and Sissy Spacek as daughter Rose, the “slow” one, who builds birdhouses in her backyard, is equally well-suited to this film.
Alvin Straight is a no-nonsense old-timer who knows time is running out; his eyes are failing, and neither his hips nor his circulation works right anymore. One day Rose gets a phone call that Alvin’s brother Lyle has suffered a stroke. Even though the two brothers haven’t spoken in ten years, Alvin believes he has to make the long trip and he wants to do it by himself. Lacking a driver’s license because of his poor vision, Alvin chooses his lawnmower as his mode of transport. He hitches up a trailer with bedding and food and off he goes. It’s a shaky start but he’s soon on the road, riding his mower over hill and past numerous corn fields. He meets some people along the way and dispenses old-time wisdom, that, in at least one instance, is a little too pat, but still, it works.
It’s a whimsical tale with some nice Lynch touches like the overweight neighbor sunning herself as she eats pink Sno Balls, or the lady on the road who’s hit one deer too many.
Occasionally, you wonder if that corn field is one too many too. But, like I said, just sit back and enjoy it – this is one of those “feel-good” movies. The music by Angelo Badalamenti, who also worked on Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”, will help transport you.
It’s doubtful that kids will care much for this film because of the slow pace and the careful dialogue. For that matter, some adults won’t care for it either. But, I liked watching Farnsworth and I liked the other characters too. I got the feeling I was watching real people, not Hollywood’s idea of them.
Harry Dean Stanton also appears. The film was made in the memory of Alvin Straight who died in 1996.
Lotta says “The Straight Story” is simple storytelling for those who can enjoy simplicity. But, do be in the mood for a mellow film. Because this is certainly one.