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"The Station Agent"

Directed by Thomas McCarthy.
Written by Thomas McCarthy. 
Starring Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Canavale.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/28/03 


It’s tough, watching movies about midgets.  Generally speaking, movies use midgets as comic foils, not dramatic leads.

So, it’s especially tough when you are watching a movie STARRING a dwarf, as “The Station Agent” stars Peter Dinklage as Fin, a small man living in New Jersey that inherits a train depot in a deserted part of Newfoundland, NJ.  A quiet individual that is constantly bombarded with verbal abuse due to his small stature (and, nearly every midget joke that can be made IS made in the first 15 minutes of the movie), he moves to his inherited property and begins a new life with new friends, including a coffee vendor named Joe (Bobby Cannavale) and a wife (Patricia Clarkson) separated from her husband of 17 years.  The threesome take up an oddball friendship, while Fin also makes friends in the form of a librarian (Michelle Williams, from “Dawson’s Creek”) and a schoolgirl named Cleo (Raven Goodwin, from “Lovely and Amazing”).

I’m pretty sure that I have never seen a film like this; on a strange note, much like the horrific film “Gerry”, so much film time is spent watching one character walk from place to place that this could easily be made into a 45-minute film.  Seriously, at 88 minutes, if you take away all of the scenes where writer/director Thomas McCarthy just gives us Fin walking from his house to the store, the library or the wife’s house, you’ve got a 50-minute film, tops.  Sure, it wouldn’t be as good, but it would cut down on the number of times we have to watch Fin walk somewhere.  But, that’s the point, really—what a struggle it must be for someone that is 4’7” to always walk everywhere (Fin doesn’t hold a driver’s license).  What a struggle it must be to walk down a road and have guys yell vulgarities at you just because you are a 35-year-old guy that is shorter than some people’s kids.  Or, what a struggle it must be to not be able to drive because you really can’t reach the gas pedal!

McCarthy does a good job of putting us in the lap of a midget without running over the cliché line with all of this midget nonsense that almost every person Fin meets in the movie seems to be obsessed with.  The performance by Dinklage is fantastic; of course, I came into this film thinking that Dinklage’s greatest role came in “Living in Oblivion”; he’s only in one scene, but damn, it is hilarious!  You need to see it, and it’s a great movie to boot...the other performances in “The Station Agent” are also strong, especially Clarkson as the clumsy wife that nearly gets Fin killed in their first (and second) meeting.  Funny stuff!

The film is over so fast that I was looking for more hangin’ out scenes with the core threesome, and like I mentioned earlier, there really are too many scenes featuring Fin just walking around the dead zone that is Newfoundland.  Otherwise, this was some good stuff.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09