When his only friend and co-worker dies, a young man born with dwarfism moves to an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey. Though he tried to maintain a life of solitude, he is soon entangled with an artist who is struggling with a personal tragedy and an overly friendly Cuban hot-dog vendor. Written by
Thomas McCarthy's 'The Station Agent' is a joyous and wondrous tale of three rather unique and quirky individuals whose lives intersect at an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey.
When a dwarf named Fin inherits the station from a business partner, he moves there, hoping to find a place where he will finally be free from all the prying eyes, pointing fingers and knowing smiles he's been subjected to all his life. However, Fin finds that, even in isolation, it's not always easy to be alone. As soon as he takes up residence in his new abode, he meets up with Olivia and Joe, two people with whom he seems to have little in common, but with whom he manages to forge a lasting friendship. Olivia is a struggling artist who lost her young son two years earlier in a freak accident. Grief-stricken and trying to put the pieces of her life back together, Olivia experiences major mood swings that make it hard for others to get close to her, no matter how hard they try. Fin, likewise, is a shy, taciturn young man who has pretty much given up the possibility that he will ever be able to have a 'normal' relationship with other people (let alone women). Thus, he turns inward, throwing up barriers in an effort to keep people out of his life, hoping that, by doing so, he will avoid getting hurt any further. Joe, on the other hand, is a garrulous young Cuban who runs a hot dog stand right outside Fin's station, a man who chatters on endlessly about any subject and sees nothing wrong with forcing himself into Fin's life, blithely unaware that his company is the last thing Fin wants. Yet, Joe is so openhearted and good-natured that even Fin, though desperately craving privacy and silence, hasn't the heart to dampen the young man's desire for companionship and friendship. Somehow, through the trials and tribulations of daily living, these three strangers develop a bond of friendship, love and mutual support.
The set-up for 'The Station Agent' could have led to any number of serious pitfalls, given its potential for unbridled quirkiness and feel-good sentimentality However, McCarthy has managed to walk that fine line between preciousness and charm, contrivance and originality, calculation and spontaneity. He has fashioned an adroit screenplay filled with likable characters, rueful humor, clever one-liners and restrained slapstick. The film is less concerned with storyline and plot than it is with tone, mood and character interaction. Throughout the film, we seem to be eavesdropping on the lives of these people, understanding that we will never fully know all the life experiences that have gone into making them the people they are today, but happy to spend just this little bit of time with them anyway.
'The Station Agent' is a masterpiece of fine acting, with Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale delivering pitch-perfect, bell-ringing performances. As the reticent dwarf, Dinklage is particularly brilliant at creating a character out of little more than body language and facial expressions. His work here offers definitive proof that some of the greatest acting and character development can be accomplished with a minimum of dialogue.
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