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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.
Finbar has lived all his life with dwarfism and has carved out a
pleasantly quiet living working in the back room of a model train shop.
When the owner dies suddenly, Fin finds himself without a place of
employment but with the inheritance of a patch of land and an old
railway depot. Moving up there, he finds the usual pointing and staring
and just continues his shut off existence. However a literal run-in
with woman suffering loss and an overfriendly coffee stand vendor mean
that he is forced to do something he has never really done before
Maybe it is because its plot-lite, quirky nature is aimed at the same crowd that was still busy talking about Lost in Translation but The Station Agent seemed to be gone from the cinemas almost as quickly as it entered it. Not unusual even in a big city like Birmingham generally non-blockbusters are only given a week, two at most before they are shunted off the screens by something else; but for it to happen to a film that easily matches Lost in Translation for sheer quirky humour and genuine emotional involvement is a real shame because this is a film that I will recommend (but not hype) to anyone who will listen to me. In terms of story, not much happens but three rather solitary souls come together, becoming friends but also bringing all their issues, baggage and problems with them. In terms of substance this is where it is at as the well written script allows Fin's seclusion to be part of him, Joe's innocently friendly nature to be as real as his speed to be wounded while the complexity of Olivia's friendship with Fin is never as simple as it would seem if I were just to state it here. It slowly draws you in with its gentle nature but it really does deliver an engaging and touching story.
The quirky touch and the gentle humour is very well observed even though at points it was rather obviously delivered with the use of 'quirky' music and strange looking shots. It is this that sets a very nice foundation for the deeper stuff that is to come and helps us buy into the characters early on so that we are there when we need to be. This quirky tone goes across the whole film and I think the only way I can describe it is to call it 'lovely'; it was lovely and it produced a delightful film that is easy to settle into and really enjoy. Dinklage is excellent; he is almost silent at times but gradually grows and you can see in his face his issues but also him struggling to come to terms with this sudden acceptance he appears to be being given as well as his own desire to trust people where he has never had a reason to before. It is very easy to praise Clarkson for strong performances but she has done it yet again with a performance that makes her character so layered but also so revealing without ever being obvious. Cannavale is given less story and character to work with but he makes the most of it and effortlessly avoids the 'yaw bro' cliché that he could easily have been and produces a sensitive, likable and sympathetic character with comparatively little material. The film has others in it but these three are the core and, with three wonderful leads how could the film have been anything less than it was?
Overall this is a very slight film that ends as quietly as it began and has little in the way of plot in between. However it has a wonderful mood delivered by unfussy direction, a unobtrusive and fitting score, wonderfully written characters and three wonderful lead performances. Missed by many on its cinema release, this is a wonderful little film that I hope will continue to surprise those that come across it during the coming years on DVD, cable and television.
I have never commented on any database about anything until now.
I wanted to find out more about the cast and Google raised this DB; I was delighted to see the customer comment facility. Reading a selection of comments I was astonished to find how much uniformity there was. Many of us seem to have had a similar experience.
I have seen the film twice. I enjoyed it so much that I thought perhaps it was because I was in the right mood and it would not stand scrutiny a second time. I enjoyed it, if anything, more on the second occasion. On both occasions when the film ended there was an audible groan of dismay from the audience that it finished long before they were ready.
It has not had a wide circulation in England and I have been a one man promotional bore encouraging friends to go to see it.
I thought that Lost in Translation would be my favourite of the last few years but it has been pushed out of the top slot.
I am surprise at a few of the comments from other contributors. "what is a coffee wagon doing in such a place", "poor script for Patricia Clarkson" etc.
For me the script, photography, acting, cutting and casting were perfect. Only one complaint- too short.
It is hard to pick the best performance and I will certainly change my mind next time I ask myself, but today I would go for Bobby Cannavale.
"The Station Agent" is a slice-of-dwarf-life character study which takes a long, hard look at little person Fin (Dinklage), a train buff who inherits an old, inactive train depot where he takes up residence and then becomes involved with the locals. This poignancy packed flick spends its full 88 minute run with a sometimes cheeky, sometimes plaintive and always human development a handful characters who all have problems of their own. An extraordinary first outing for writer/director McCarthy, this little indie received raves from critical corners and applause from the public at large making it an almost sure thing for potential viewers. A wonderful film which makes the point that size does matter when it's size of character and not stature. (A-)
A story about a man with dwarfism who's hobby is trainspotting doesn't sound like an inspiring tale, but the Station Agent is a remarkable achievement in making it just that. Relocating to a fairly remote area where he has inherited some property, the main character becomes very popular - not because of his cute dwarfism, but because he exhibits an inner strength that enables people to eventually see past his physical deformity. Superb acting by all the cast, and wonderful contrasts between their inner lives and the outer personas they use to deal with the everyday superficialities of the world (including meeting new people). The film is beautiful, uplifting, realistic, without ever becoming cheesy or moralising. A joy to behold.
The Station Agent was for me one of those "quiet movies about quiet people who come and go quietly" (I'm not a big fan of action films.) I love to experience human intimacy on film and The Station Agent did exactly that for me. I found the characters, and their interaction, captivating. I fell in love with Patricia Clarkson through Six Feet Under, Bobby Cannavale through Will & Grace, and Peter Dinklage through Dinner for Five. What an ensemble! In this coming together of such grand talent, I experienced synergistic convergence, a rare commodity in film. I found Peter absolutely enchanting, he delivers a magical performance. I am in awe of the light that shines from his being. I perceive him to be an ancient soul. My life has been enriched for having experienced his essence. And, even though I'm old enough to be his mother, I find him to be a handsome and sexy man! (And I'm 5'9" tall). The universe has been waiting for Peter Dinklage. I look for him to accomplish wonderful things (in and out of the film industry).
The Station Agent is one of those films where there doesn't seem to be much in the way, at least in conventional terms, of a story being told without dubious circumstance. Whoever Finbar- Fin (Peter Dinklage, in a mostly low-key, appropriately observant performance) meets in the small town of Newfoundland, NJ will either be at some degree of a friend to him, or someone who passes him by and scoffs at his apparent height of four foot five inches. The way writer/director Thomas McCarthey has characters interact with each other is also rewarding, since they come off as solid and believable to their situations (the life-affirming Joe, the sweet and lonely Olivia, the little fascinated girl Cleo, and the young, sexy Emily). And at the same time he doesn't lose sight of the center of the film, which is the obsession with trains. It's a wonderful motif to have with these characters- most especially for Fin- who don't seem to go anywhere much, and are content to watch them go by as they stay put in the town. By the end I felt like I saw a heart-warming comedy, despite the sad moments, as it went for a more human side to actions and dialog, instead of a 'slapstick-because-there's-a-dwarf' ideal to comedies. Fin is a person, and we're given him as a uniquely empathetic persona in Dinklage's performance. A-
'The Station Agent' is a very simple but lovely quirky little film. There isn't much in terms of a plot but it works as a wonderful tone and mood piece and a brilliant study of three very likable and unique individuals and their friendship. As the audience it feels as though we are taking a glimpse into their lives and invited to be part of their experience. The cheerful background score adds to the quirkiness (without being intrusive). The screenplay is refreshing as it elegantly brings together the characters, the subtle light humour, the clever dialogues and one-liners. 'The Station Agent' is also visually pleasing, the simplistic natural green spacious settings, Olivia's lonely home, Fin's dark little one-roomed bedless stationhome and Joe's friendly van. The actors breathe life into their roles. All three of the principle cast members deliver very sincere and natural performances. Peter Dinklage acts in a very restrained manner allowing his silence to speak volumes. Bobby Cannavale is hilarious as the chatty Joe. Patricia Clarkson easily brings out the layers of Olivia and gives a strong performance. Michelle Williams holds her own. Overall, 'The Station Agent' is a delightful experience that draws smiles from the audience. An uplifting gentle little film.
This is an amazing film -- it has humor, intelligence and emotion. With a
minimum of dialog, it conveys a great deal of wisdom regarding the human
Peter Dinklage excels as a train enthusiast who thinks a move to the small train depot he inherits may afford him the peace and quiet he craves. As a result of his dwarfism, he has been on the receiving end of too much cruelty, sometimes thoughtless but all too often intentional, so all he wants is to be left alone. Once ensconced in the depot, however, he meets a few people (most notably an artist played by Patricia Clarkson) who bring to his life all the complications involved in relationships. And that's what this film is all about: we are all fallible individuals, but ultimately we need each other.
High marks to Thomas McCarthy for directing and writing this treasure. The only thing I don't understand is why it was assigned an "R" rating.
I heard the comments, I read the reviews, but actually seeing The
Station Agent was even better than I had expected. I watched it in a
library--and it was almost a full house for the showing tonight. At the
end there was a burst of applause. I watch movies in libraries quite
often, but I can't remember the last time I heard applause when the
movie was over.
Another movie (Lost in Translation is in this group) which doesn't settle for the oh-too-obvious "fall in love" clichés, and presents supportive friendship as a worthwhile choice. I think that working towards friendship is a tremendous possibility (and never one that you have to regret in the morning)!
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