Mower power to you
David Lynch's new G-rated surprise "The Straight Story" is full of modest wisdom from a farmer on a two-state trek by tractor.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
In "The Straight Story," 73-year-old Alvin Straight learns that his brother
Lyle, with whom he hasn't exchanged a civil word in almost ten years, has
had a stroke. Determined to pay his estranged brother a visit, Alvin drives
across Iowa and into Wisconsin on a John Deere riding mower.
That unusual set-up makes for a very interesting road movie as the ailing
Alvin (Oscar probable Richard Farnsworth) heads out across America's heartland against the better judgment of his grown daughter Rose (Sissy
|THE STRAIGHT STORY|
|Directed by: David Lynch.|
Written by: David Lynch and John Roach.
Cast: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Heitz, Everett McGill, Jennifer Edwards, Barbara E. Robertson, John Farley, John Lordan, Harry Dean Stanton.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
For much of the film we're treated to colorful vistas of cornfields
stretching far and wide toward the great Mississippi, their symmetric lines
fazed occasionally by a lone combine kicking up dust. And Alvin, unfazed by
everything around him, dogged and determined like a mangy old cur worrying a
It would be nice if this amiable, heartfelt little film could be remembered
for its simple and straightforward storyline and the power of its
performances. After all, if you're going to be watching a septuagenarian
trekking cross-country on a lawnmower, engaging those he meets along the way
in candid conversation, then whose better company to share than
Farnsworth's? Unfortunately, "The Straight Story" is more likely to be
talked about as "that G-rated picture David Lynch made for Disney" rather
than for the notable contributions of Farnsworth and Spacek, whose
husband Jack Fisk is responsible for the distinctive production design.
Scary storms, road-kill, teenage pregnancy, moving violations, a semi-naked
man with liver spots who, later, downs a beer ask yourself how this movie
got a G-rating when all those other, harmless, inoffensive G-rated films
were slapped with a "PG." It would seem that the promoting of this film has
once again revealed the inconsistency and the hypocrisy of the MPAA.
|Alvin tells a hitchhiker who's running away from home that a warm bed and a roof over one's head sound a lot better than sharing a wiener on a stick with an old geezer who's traveling by lawnmower.|| |
Calculated marketing ploys aside, "The Straight Story" is a worthwhile investment of your time, although action fans take note about as
slow-moving as Alvin's curious mode of transportation. The lone traveler seems
genuinely surprised when a fleet of cyclists pass him by. "What's the worst
thing about getting old?" one of them asks him at camp later that evening.
"Remembering what it was like to be young."
The film is filled with these kinds of observations; none of them
particularly awe-inspiring but all of them genuine and from the heart. Like
the time Alvin tells a hitchhiker who's running away from home that a warm
bed and a roof over one's head sound a lot better than sharing a wiener on a
stick with an old geezer who's traveling by lawnmower.
In that vein, "The Straight Story" concerns itself first and foremost with
the strength of family: unlike a single twig, a cluster of sticks cannot be
easily broken. It's a simple yet effective metaphor that mirrors the
simplicity and effectiveness of the entire film. And we can thank the Motion
Picture Association of America for allowing General Audiences to see it.
|OCTOBER 20, 1999|
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