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"The Straight Story" chronicles a trip made by 73-year-old Alvin Straight from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wis., in 1994 while riding a lawn mower. The man undertook his strange journey to mend his relationship with his ill, estranged, 75-year-old brother Lyle. Written by
"A truly nice story with a moral about brotherly love" describes this odd David Lynch film. This was especially "odd" because it wasn't the kind of film Lynch had been putting out in the last 15 -20 years. Those were dark and shocking films (Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Mulholland Drive) and this is the opposite. I know it disappointed a lot of his fans. Others were delighted by it. Count me as one of the latter, and I own all three of those "dark" films, too.
This was another supposed-true life story, here detailing an elderly man's trip in a seated lawnmower from western Iowa all the way to Wisconsin to see his ailing brother who he hasn't talked to in years but wants to see before the latter dies. Well, I guess that premise - an old man driving a lawn mower 400 miles - still makes this an "odd" film of sorts, so Lynch stays in character with that!
Richard Farnsworth plays the title role. He is the type of guy, face-wise, voice-wise, low-key personality-wise, that just about everyone likes. The wrinkles on his face tell many a story. It was so sad to hear what happened to him in real life a year after this film was released.
The first 25 minutes of this film isn't much, and not always pleasant as it shows the main character's adult and mentally-challenged child (Sissy Spacek) and her tragic past, but once Alvin Straight (Farnsworth) begins his trip, the story picks up. I played this for several friends and they thought the film NEVER picked up, but I am more generous with it. I think it's a hidden gem. To them, it was a sleeping pill.
I found his trip pretty fascinating but you have to realize in advance this is NOT going to be a suspenseful Lynch crime story. It IS slow and if that's okay with you, you might like this. Charm enters the picture in some of people Alvin meets along the way, such as a wayward young girl running away and some nice town folks who help the old man out when he gets in trouble. (Henry Cada as "Daniel Riordan, is a standout in that regard.) Harry Dean Stanton gets third billing, but that's a joke: he's only in the final few minutes of the movie!
The Iowa scenery is pleasant. I lived there for several years and can attest to the rolling hills and the rich soil. It's a nice state with nice people....like this movie.
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