The Straight Story
**** GM
Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, Everett McGill, Jane Heitz


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I'm surprised this movie got made, but I'm very glad it did.

Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) is an old farmer with bad legs, bad eyes and recovering from a history of a bad alcoholic attitude. He lives with Rose (Sissy Spacek), his daughter that's suffered through some serious hell as a result of her speech impediment and the perception of being 'slow.' When Alvin finds out the brother he hasn't spoken to in years has had a stroke, he makes the trip up to see him the only way he can - hitching a trailer to his lawn mower and driving across Iowa to get to Wisconsin.

Movies about grizzled old guys don't get made unless the old guy in question is Paul Newman or it's Cocoon 3: Eat Your Dadblasted Oatmeal, Varmint! There is no one in this movie that's particularly attractive, which nearly makes it a Hollywood landmark. It's just a simple, earnest and beautiful film that takes its time to get where its going, and will no doubt prove frustrating to those that can't live without quick cuts and snappy patter.

What's also incredibly refreshing is that the people Alvin encounters along the way are good and decent people. Not the Edward Scissorhands facade of decency, but actual quality human beings. The clergyman is not secretly fucking little boys in the cemetery at night, the couple that lets him bivouac in their yard are not secretly planning to put his head on a pike and then see how many monkeys they can stuff up his rectum until his nipples start to ooze, and they're not comically bungling hopeless rednecks, either. They're just helpful, low-key people, and I didn't know how much I missed that portrayal until I finally saw it.

It's somewhat odd that movies are at a point where having no twist is a twist and having no dark downward spiral does not mean the movie doesn't have anything to say. Lessons about brotherhood, compassion, regret, and some much-needed rebellion against being elderly, and a healthy respect for the Midwestern life. This film can hit close to home no matter what age you are or where you're from.

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