An unholy union makes good.


Cliffnotes review:
An unholy union makes good.

This film goes to: 8
Rated (G)
Directed by: David Lynch
Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek
Written by: John Roach, Mary Sweeney
111 minutes
Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site

David Lynch's "The Straight Story" starts off a little slow. In fact, slow is pretty much the pace for the entire film. This works to great effect, however and, once one gets over the "who polluted this town's drinking water" feeling early on (everyone seems to have taken a wild dose of stupid pills), "The Straight Story" unfolds to reveal one of the better films in recent memory.

Lynch pulls off a bit of a coup with this film not only wrangling a deal with Disney (yup, I said it) but garnering a "G" rating to boot. And, he manages to do this all without sacrificing much in the way of that which makes him David Lynch. Missing are the over-the-top visual effects and characters are painted with a more subtle stroke than one finds in most Lynchian adventures but the story is still surreal enough to delight anyone familiar with his work.

Based on the true story of one man's journey across Iowa on a lawnmower, "The Straight Story" features a near-perfect performance by Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight. He brings a presence to the screen that is an adept portrayal of one who has traveled many miles and has managed to actually pay attention along the way. Straight is a man whose body is failing him but whose mind is still sharp. When his estranged brother (played briefly by Harry Dean Stanton) suffers a stroke, Straight decides that he needs to visit to make amends. Straight is a man of principle and needs to fulfill this quest on his own. Having no driver's license, he sets out for Wisconsin (350 miles away) on his lawnmower (yes, that is correct…) to reconcile with his brother.

This all plays out in a fairly linear fashion with little in the way of subplot or diversion from the task at hand. Aside from those Straight meets along his way, little distracts him from his goal. Lynch does an admirable job of allowing the character's insight regarding the plight of others, advice he gives along the way and ability to cope with adversity speak volumes. This, coupled with Lynch's ability to not feel obligated to force-feed the story to the audience, makes for an enlightening experience that will spawn discussion and provoke thoughtful introspection on what, in less talented hands, could have turned into another sappy walk through the mundane.

DVD Details:
This is where "The Straight Story" goes horribly wrong as the DVD is an example of exactly how NOT to release a film to video. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is breathtaking and the second unit footage comes to life with this transfer. The audio is delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) as well. This, however, is where the fun abruptly ends. They say you don't miss something until it is gone and "The Straight Story" is delivered without chapter stops or the ability to scroll through the content. This, is unacceptable and, coupled with the lack of any extra features (aside from the theatrical trailer and English subtitle options), makes for a frustrating DVD experience. Where is the commentary? Cast bios? Anything? Even the Canadian release has a "Tribute to Richard Farnsworth" (who passed away in October 2000). Couldn't they have thrown that on the US release? Disappointing to say the least.

Film: ****
Video: ****
Audio: ****
Extras: *

Back to Film Reviews index.

Critter Critique: This week's review brought to you by Gavin.
Fatal Attraction:  Yet another example of Hollywood schlock served up in a double boiler. Though Fatal Attraction starts innocently enough, I was shocked and appalled to witness the on-screen atrocity put forth as entertainment in act three. Trust me, this one is not fit for man nor beast. Ginger Pants