The Station Agent

Not a great movie, but a charmingly simple character study. It’s about a dwarf, a pint-sized man, named Finbar whose short stature has made him shy and aloof. His love of trains keeps him going. Finbar takes up residence inside a dilapidated station house and watches trains rumble by. While living in this miserable, lonely New Jersey backwater, he befriends two denizens: one is garrulous, wisecracking city boy, Joe, who drives his hotdog wagon and sells his wares next to the station house and the other, Olivia, is a lonely, divorced painter, still scarred by the sudden break-up of her family. Writer-director Thomas McCarthy does a decent job of bringing compelling characters together: Their rapport is enjoyable and his movie has a breezy, moody pace to it that one seldom comes by.

What bothered me about Station Agent is that, for all its sincere and assertively “indie movie” good intentions, it’s still just as forced and manipulative as your noisy, run-of-the-mill mainstream movie. Why do these three disparate characters, for instance, have any reason to meet in the first place? Joe, the hotdog vendor, is chatty and well-adjusted, so what’s he care about a lonely dwarf who’s quiet it’s borderline hostile; also, why the hell does he park his wagon on a spot of ground where there is no, absolutely NO business to be had? He isn’t running his business too wisely if you ask me…. And what’s with all the women suddenly fixated on Finba? Intelligent, normal-sized men have a hard enough time baiting the attentions of attractive women, so why in the span of a couple of days does this freakishly short gentleman luck out with not just Clarkson’s divorcee but with the hot blonde local librarian played by Michelle Williams? That’s stretching credibility just a tad, I’d say. Not to mention that, out of the blue, Finbar has a completely devoted friend in Joe. I’m sorry, but the world is just not that kind no matter how many hard knocks you’ve taken. And this is where The Station Agent is a fraud: It does not appeal honestly to our sentiments. Its drama is heavily contrived in spite of its lightness of foot. Its subtle and textured style, however, does win over our incredulities in the end.

Also, how can I trash a movie that does something only a handful has ever done in the history of cinema: It gives a dwarf the chance to showcase his dramatic talents without reducing him to a freak! Peter Dinklage, with just his piercing eyes and furrowed brow, grabs our attention from the first scene to the last, even if he happens to be doing nothing but sitting and watching a train pass by, wishing he could roll away with it and escape the realities of a lonely, difficult world. I feel your pain, Finbar.

Grade: B-

Directed by: Thomas McCarthy
Written by: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams

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