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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.43%
Average: 2.86%
Pretty Bad: 11.43%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Straight Story, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"A Moving Journey"
5 stars

The Straight Story is named for Alvin Straight, who drove his Deere landmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother. The title is also appropriate, because this film - released by Disney, his first with a ‘G’ rating - is a departure for David Lynch, master stylist of the grotesque.

Straight was 73 when he took the trip, setting out at the beginning of autumn and arriving just before winter. Alvin lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), and he decides to take the trip after hearing the news of his brother Lyle’s stroke. He makes an impulsive attempt, then fails, and Lynch seems to be mocking us with this slow start to the movie - if you can’t handle the leisurely pacing now, how will you cope with an interstate journey by lawn mower?

But Lynch soon relaxes you into the rhythm of the movie, and he’s aided in this by a beautiful score by long-time collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, and the cutting of his partner, Mary Sweeney. Sweeney co-wrote the screenplay as well, and I imagine a lot of the people Alvin meets along the way are inventions for the film. Sweeney and co-writer John Roach use each encounter (with a pregnant girl who’s run away from her family, a team of cyclists, a woman who’s car has struck a deer, a priest) to tease out more information about Alvin - why he hasn’t seen Lyle for so long, his attitude to growing older, what he thinks of family, why he makes his odyssey alone.

Everything else we learn from Richard Farnsworth - his eyes, his expression, the way he walks and talks as Alvin. You expect a character like this to be lovable and stubborn, but I was taken back by the fear in Alvin’s expression when he’s struggling
for control of the mower down a steep slope. It’s a performance that builds naturally during the film, as Alvin reveals more about himself.

The images of Lynch and cinematographer Freddie Francis are lyrical. Aerial shots of Alvin passing between fields have a simplicity and natural feel that’s magical. There’s a pleasure here in watching the countryside transformed by the changing
seasons, seeing the sky at night and at all times of the day - something that movies, of all the art forms, can convey best.

There are two key moments in The Straight Story. The ending - which is perfect - and an earlier scene where Alvin sits in a bar with a man he’s just met. They’re a similar age, and they each swap a story from World War II. Lynch has the sense not to show us what they’re remembering in flashback (this story is refreshingly also Straight in a linear sense). Everything comes from the faces of the actors, and it’s enough.

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originally posted: 05/09/00 21:07:39
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User Comments

4/03/09 Dane Youssef David Lynch moves us, touches us and does something that few directors have been able to. 5 stars
4/08/08 David Hollands It gets the tears flowing every time. One of the most beautiful films ever made. 5 stars
3/21/08 docmoreau It and "The Fastest American Indian" get my votes for best septuagenarian yarns 4 stars
5/29/07 glo- yes, simple, beautiful, more of this please! 5 stars
3/05/07 Cynthia this movie heals many emotions 5 stars
12/31/06 mr.mike pretty dull , specially for DL 3 stars
10/27/06 Isaac Baranoff Another departure from Lynch's usual style. Still great. 5 stars
6/25/04 Daveman An adorable film. Lynch is almost as good at being upbeat as he is at being sinister. 4 stars
6/05/04 MyGreenBed The first 15 minutes are interesting, but...damn, what a snorefest after that. Overrated. 2 stars
4/28/04 The More You Know Treasure this touching reunion with a loved one...quite extraordinary! 5 stars
3/25/04 Lord Haw Haw A journey across the human heart, bridging the gulf between estranged brothers. Exquisite. 5 stars
12/06/03 john a beautifully patient, involving, honest and ultimately triumphant film - amazing 5 stars
8/02/03 DM Good flick- not as good as I thought it'd be, but moving nonetheless 4 stars
7/12/03 Alice What a disapointment 2 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Even Jack Bourbon was a little misty after this one. Lynch did this??? He should do more. 5 stars
1/01/03 Jack Sommersby A true original. Beautiful and breathtakingly executed. Farnsworth is a treasure. 5 stars
11/27/02 Zack W. Young Beautful and spell-binding; possibly the only Lynch piece worth watching for normals. 5 stars
10/21/02 TheBomb69 I cried, heartbreaking stuff! 5 stars
5/31/02 Phil M. Aficionado As you become older you learn to sift the wheat from the chaff. Thanks for the wheat. 5 stars
5/19/02 john waite a perfect performance by richard farnsworth..beautiful! 5 stars
9/30/01 daniboy beautiful, beautiful movie 5 stars
8/01/01 Elendil A unique story. Some parts are a tad cliche. 3 stars
5/22/01 R.W. Welch An intentionally "little" movie but carried off with real aplomb. 4 stars
3/07/01 Mike I still cry when I watch it! 5 stars
10/08/00 Keith Condit There is nothing wrong with this movie...unless you are a special effects or action freak ! 4 stars
8/04/00 Viking David Lynch's compassionate side 4 stars
7/09/00 Narf Slow to develop, but a great low-key payoff ending. Richard Farnsworth rocks. 4 stars
7/08/00 Gluke So Good! 5 stars
6/08/00 Monday Morning Outstanding "touch" by Lynch. Says so much, so quietly. 5 stars
5/28/00 Belinda I was totally absorbed. 5 stars
5/19/00 The Hunter good 5 stars
1/30/00 Adam This is a Lynch movie? 4 stars
12/07/99 Ralf Behet Pure cinematic poetry. Farnsworth delivers a superlative performance. One of Lynch's best. 5 stars
11/18/99 The Furtive Ventriliquist Lynch keeps on gettin' better! 5 stars
11/17/99 Krasker Wonderful. Beautiful and poetic and life-affirming. 5 stars
11/14/99 MANGAN C. Loved it! 5 stars
11/09/99 Heather Simple, beautiful, funny, moving, David Lynch takes a gamble and pulls it off 5 stars
11/09/99 Kirsten I hope I am never too cynical to appreciate something so beautiful in its simplicity. 5 stars
10/16/99 Mr Showbiz David Lynch get sback to basics with a simpe story of human dignity. 4 stars
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Directed by
  David Lynch

Written by
  John Roach
  Mary Sweeney

  Harry Dean Stanton

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