Saturday, April 18, 2020

Cinema in Quarantine: The Straight Story

As with most things, I was late to the game in seeing David Lynch's 1999 film The Straight Story. When I finally got my hands on it I had heard enough about it to decide in advance that it was something I would like, knowing only that it was a story of a man who takes a long journey through the upper midwest on a lawnmower. I ended up enjoying it so much that I put it in the lineup of a "ten best indie films" list I wrote when I used to write reviews for Examiner, and brought it to one of the community ed film classes I taught (which the class also loved). A few days ago I sat down with Cameron Cloutier again (@bodian26) to do a rewatch and commentary.

What struck me most this time was how the film does such a great job of drawing out emotion for Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) through its simplicity without seeming too overly sentimental. Some of the things about getting older that hadn't occurred to me in previous viewings made a bigger impact this time around; declining health, family estrangements, remembering when you were young, all this becomes a lot more important in later years (and I've gotten plenty older since the last viewing). Slow moving camera, interactions with unique characters, and as always, a beautiful score by Angelo Badalementi make this film indeed a David Lynch masterpiece, but one unlike any of its fellows in the Lynch collection.

The Straight Story is 112 minutes, is rated G, and is currently available to stream on Disney+.