Film Notes and Reviews

Film

The Station Agent - USA - 2003

Director

Tom McCarthy

Cast

Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Raven Goodwin, Michelle Williams

Notes

"Hollywood dictates that rebels ride motorbikes and look like James Dean or Steve McQueen. Not so, in Tom McCarthy’s ‘The Station Agent’. Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) breaks the mould as a dwarf who opts out of society because of the unwanted attention his appearance invites – he may be a loner but he’d look very silly trying to straddle a Harley.

This is a gem of a movie that, like its protagonist, boasts a fiercely independent spirit full of discreet optimism and deadpan humour.

When Fin inherits a derelict train depot in rural New Jersey, he can’t wait to escape the brashness of New York. But solitude is hard to find in the small town of Newfoundland, especially as extrovert hot dog vendor, Joe, is permanently parked on his doorstep. Then there is highly strung artist, Olivia, who manages to run Fin off the road every time he ventures out for a pint of milk. In spite of himself, Fin gets entangled
In their personal dramas and finally opens his eyes to a broader view of the world and his place in it.

Peter Dinklage is particularly impressive, holding the weight of the film together with mere scraps of dialogue and the heavy brow of disenchantment.

Weaving it all together, writer/director McCarthy, shows a skilfully light touch. His attention to the quiet moments between people helps shape a beautiful and simple portrayal of humanity. This film towers above the Hollywood mainstream."

Stella Papamichael – BBC Film Review - 2004

"The remote outpost that a dwarf named Fin (Peter Dinklage) settles into, a rundown train depot in the wilds of New Jersey, is such a restful place, it seems perfect for him. Director Tom McCarthy has such an appreciation for quiet, it becomes a character in this film, a delicate, thoughtful and often hilarious take on loneliness.

McCarthy treats Fin’s new life in the rundown station as if his protagonist was emerging from underwater and must adjust to the onrush of human sound. Much of this comes from Joe, a relentlessly friendly owner of a food truck, running the loneliest of retail locations. Fanning up a cloud of busy, pushy, likeable chatter, Joe elbows his way into taciturn Fin’s life. The relationship between Joe and Fin is enthralling and the director’s focus on character creation gives a perceptive range of insights into human detachment and loneliness."

Elvis Mitchell – New York Times - 2003

What you thought about The Station Agent


Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor
38 (51%) 35 (47%) 2 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Total Number of Responses: 75
Film Score (0-5): 4.48

This film received accolades from just about everyone. The recurring use of such words as ‘charming’, ‘delightful’, heart warming’, ‘gentle’ gives a strong indication of the feelings invoked.

Additionally, the humour was appreciated: ‘Really funny’, ‘quirky and funny with some great observational moments’; ‘excellent and funny’; ‘good fun'.

Characterisation was clearly the main thrust of the film: ‘beautiful portrayal of the characters’, ‘a magnificent performance by Peter Dinklage– superb as always’, ‘interesting investigation of the essential loneliness of individuals and the importance of friendship’, ‘lovely portrayal of emerging relationships’, unusual yet charming study of friendship’, ‘good to watch the development of the characters and their differing needs’, ‘brilliant interaction of the three main characters – beautifully acted- both happy and sad’, ‘showed the caring side of humanity, the fragility and the challenges of life’.

Of course, the film did confront the audience with the issue of what life is like for those who don’t conform to our physical ‘norms’. ‘At the beginning, thought of Fin as a dwarf – but as the film progressed he was clearly the ‘man’ interacting with and influencing those around him’ ‘a sight into the world of dwarfism’, ‘sensitive treatment of the challenges of dwarfism and the associated prejudices’, ‘thought provoking – a great moral to the story’.

Interestingly, many of you were surprised that such a film could be made in America: ‘Refreshingly different film from America’, ‘an American film with no guns –amazing’, ‘for once an American film that keeps life simple and straightforward’, ‘an unusual film for America’.

In a similar vein, it was noted that this was ‘a film with sexual overtones but NO sex which is such a novelty’.

There were some reservations about the structure of the film: ‘A bit inconclusive – possibly following a dated style done better by the French’, ‘continuity a little disjointed’, ‘uneven story and direction’, ‘directed with a light touch – until the last 15 minutes’, ‘a little slow’.

Final comments:
‘Trains really are cool’, ‘interesting that even in 2003 mobile phones were considered slightly irritating’, ‘good to end a film with a smile on one’s face’.


Short Film: George Lucas in Love.
This short film has received considerable acclaim since its production in 1999. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, many of you thought it was excellent and quite hilarious to see references to Star Wars characters that were defined in 1977 and yet are familiar to this day.


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