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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.43%
Just Average: 2.86%
Pretty Crappy: 11.43%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Straight Story, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Kinder, gentler Lynch is just as mesmerizing."
5 stars

David Lynch began the '90s with a triumph ('Twin Peaks') and finished it with another one.

The Straight Story is based on the true account of Alvin Straight (played here by Richard Farnsworth), a 73-year-old Iowan who sets out to visit his long-estranged brother Lyle, who's recently had a stroke. Alvin can't drive -- his eyes are too far gone -- so he makes the journey on a John Deere lawnmower, pulling along a makeshift trailer where he sleeps and stores his things.

Lynch is best known -- some would say most notorious -- for his severe, very R-rated shockers exploring the nightside of human sexuality and brutality: Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway. Yet it isn't at all out of character for him to do this 180-degree turn and make a becalmed, soothing ode to rural life. Lynch, a Montana native, always comes across in interviews as folksy and gee-whiz, despite the heart of darkness beating in most of his work. It's not an ironic put-on; he really is that way, and The Straight Story brings out a part of him that he's maybe had to sneak sideways into some of his other movies (Blue Velvet had its folksy moments).

The movie is exquisitely simple, near-plotless, as Alvin makes his slow journey from Iowa to Wisconsin. As always, Lynch draws the scenes out, letting them breathe, giving us time to drink in the images. His measured pacing is completely organic to the subject -- a 73-year-old man with two canes, travelling at about five miles an hour on a 1966 lawnmower. We experience life as Alvin does. The cars and trucks zooming by on the highway seem like demons violating the rural space -- why are they in such a hurry? There's a beautifully spooky moment when dozens of bicyclists whoosh past Alvin in a bike race, looking like silent white aliens streaking down the country road, like something out of Close Encounters. Don't be fooled by the G rating: This is probably the first true art film to come out under the Walt Disney banner.

Veteran actor Farnsworth, who was actually six years older than Alvin when he played the part, gives a stunning near-silent performance. This is a movie of few words (I'd be surprised if the script, by Mary Sweeney and John Roach, came in at much more than 60 pages), with a hero of few words. Lynch and his great cinematographer Freddie Francis get a lot of mileage out of the countryside -- the deep blue sky, the rustling corn, the rusty old farm machines chugging in the fields -- but the movie is all in Farnsworth's weathered face, his way of looking at someone and understanding all he needs to understand. "How far along are you?" he asks a sullen runaway girl. She isn't showing yet; he just knows.

The Straight Story also gives Lynch an opportunity to put slightly askew characters on the screen; as always, he's not really laughing at them -- he respects them, enjoys them for who they are. There's the set of twin mechanics who fix Alvin's mower; one of them has a strange bandage on his cheek. There's the woman who keeps hitting deer with her car no matter how hard she tries not to. There's the hardware-store clerk who's moved nearly to tears when Alvin asks to buy the man's beloved "grabber." Most radiantly, there's Alvin's daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek, who goes way back with Lynch but has never acted for him before), a somewhat slow woman with a vocal hesitancy that hides her essential level-headedness.

This is the only G-rated movie Lynch has directed and probably ever will direct. For that reason, some parents may think it's a movie they can take their little kids to. While there's absolutely nothing kids shouldn't see in The Straight Story, there's also very little to interest them. The movie is really for mature audiences, and it's for patient audiences, too. If a meditative pace isn't your thing, you'd better pass. But for some of us who find subtle, hushed, easygoing movies an immensely refreshing change of pace from today's usual bang-bang, The Straight Story hits the spot.

Leaving the theater, a friend remarked that he'd enjoyed the film, but that nobody would ever say "That movie rocks." "No," I said, "it rocks quietly."

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2241&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/10/07 00:30:52
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User Comments

4/02/09 Dane Youssef David Lynch moves us, touches us and does something that few directors have been able to. 5 stars
4/07/08 David Hollands It gets the tears flowing every time. One of the most beautiful films ever made. 5 stars
3/20/08 docmoreau It and "The Fastest American Indian" get my votes for best septuagenarian yarns 4 stars
5/29/07 glo- yes, simple, beautiful, more of this please! 5 stars
3/04/07 Cynthia this movie heals many emotions 5 stars
12/30/06 mr.mike pretty dull , specially for DL 3 stars
10/26/06 Isaac Baranoff Another departure from Lynch's usual style. Still great. 5 stars
6/24/04 Daveman An adorable film. Lynch is almost as good at being upbeat as he is at being sinister. 4 stars
6/04/04 MyGreenBed The first 15 minutes are interesting, but...damn, what a snorefest after that. Overrated. 2 stars
4/28/04 The More You Know Treasure this touching reunion with a loved one...quite extraordinary! 5 stars
3/24/04 Lord Haw Haw A journey across the human heart, bridging the gulf between estranged brothers. Exquisite. 5 stars
12/05/03 john a beautifully patient, involving, honest and ultimately triumphant film - amazing 5 stars
8/01/03 DM Good flick- not as good as I thought it'd be, but moving nonetheless 4 stars
7/11/03 Alice What a disapointment 2 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon Even Jack Bourbon was a little misty after this one. Lynch did this??? He should do more. 5 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby A true original. Beautiful and breathtakingly executed. Farnsworth is a treasure. 5 stars
11/26/02 Zack W. Young Beautful and spell-binding; possibly the only Lynch piece worth watching for normals. 5 stars
10/20/02 TheBomb69 I cried, heartbreaking stuff! 5 stars
5/31/02 Phil M. Aficionado As you become older you learn to sift the wheat from the chaff. Thanks for the wheat. 5 stars
5/18/02 john waite a perfect performance by richard farnsworth..beautiful! 5 stars
9/30/01 daniboy beautiful, beautiful movie 5 stars
8/01/01 Elendil A unique story. Some parts are a tad cliche. 3 stars
5/21/01 R.W. Welch An intentionally "little" movie but carried off with real aplomb. 4 stars
3/07/01 Mike I still cry when I watch it! 5 stars
10/07/00 Keith Condit There is nothing wrong with this movie...unless you are a special effects or action freak ! 4 stars
8/04/00 Viking David Lynch's compassionate side 4 stars
7/08/00 Narf Slow to develop, but a great low-key payoff ending. Richard Farnsworth rocks. 4 stars
7/08/00 Gluke So Good! 5 stars
6/07/00 Monday Morning Outstanding "touch" by Lynch. Says so much, so quietly. 5 stars
5/28/00 Belinda I was totally absorbed. 5 stars
5/18/00 The Hunter good 5 stars
1/30/00 Adam This is a Lynch movie? 4 stars
12/07/99 Ralf Behet Pure cinematic poetry. Farnsworth delivers a superlative performance. One of Lynch's best. 5 stars
11/17/99 The Furtive Ventriliquist Lynch keeps on gettin' better! 5 stars
11/16/99 Krasker Wonderful. Beautiful and poetic and life-affirming. 5 stars
11/13/99 MANGAN C. Loved it! 5 stars
11/08/99 Heather Simple, beautiful, funny, moving, David Lynch takes a gamble and pulls it off 5 stars
11/08/99 Kirsten I hope I am never too cynical to appreciate something so beautiful in its simplicity. 5 stars
10/16/99 Mr Showbiz David Lynch get sback to basics with a simpe story of human dignity. 4 stars
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Directed by
  David Lynch

Written by
  John Roach
  Mary Sweeney

  Harry Dean Stanton

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