March 23, 2014

The Station Agent

Thomas McCarthy, 2003
Fin (Peter Dinklage) is a train enthusiast who was born with dwarfism. When his friend dies and the train shop closes, he decides to relocate to the property he inherited to live a life in isolation.

McCarthy succeeds in drawing the sympathy early. Fin's world in Hoboken is an unforgiving one. He is laughed at by the children in the streets, pointed at by the people in the grocery store. When his friend passes, you can't blame him for wanting to get the hell out of the hell he is living in. The only thing that Hoboken had to offer was a job and a companion. Both of those are gone. He hasn't even seen the small bit of land he inherits but assumes it's an upgrade from the status quo. The backdrop of the run-down rail-yards and miles of power lines doesn't necessarily paint a warm landscape. Fin is a man who has been faced with adversity all of his life but also struggles with geographical limitations. Getting through his days are work, not because of physical limitations but because of the world around him. He appears to be on the edge of complete surrender by the time that he walks to Newfoundland. He's convinced that the one genuine person has died, and there's not another one left in the world. When he arrives in the small town, the ridicule is diminished but still present. When the friendly souls surface, it almost feels as if he is the one who passed and he is in some kind of strange afterlife. The film has a certain mythical quality to it in that sense. Food truck Joe is too friendly, to the point of being disconcerting. This works against his character too, because he truly seems like a person of unlimited patience and persistence. While McCarthy's simple story is earnest, at times it feels like it's dragging. While Dinklage is clearly a talented actor and provides a layered performance, when he finally opens up to Joe and Olivia he doesn't lay a lot out there. That's disappointing because the film  is really a character study, built for Fin. He succeeds in constructing the beaten man, but fails at showing us a man who has truly opened up even though the story forces him to. Not that he needed to make an embellished character arch with a happily-ever-after conclusion, it would have been nice to see Fin truly conquer something within himself, rather than just crack a smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment