The Straight Story (1999)

The Straight Story is a drama film based on the true story of an 73-year-old-man, Alvin Straight, who journeyed across Iowa and Wisconsin on a John Deere lawnmower, at top speeds of 5 miles per hour for 240 miles for six weeks, to visit his brother who had recently had a stroke.  Starring Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, and Harry Dean Stanton.  Directed by David Lynch, produced and edited by Mary Sweeney, and written by John Roach and Mary Sweeney.  (Running Time: 112 minutes)(Rated G)

(This will be a shorter movie review then usual)

There is apparently a long story behind the film director David Lynch and his odd, artistic ways of shooting a movie.  Just as differently as Orson Welles, and uniquely the same as a Stanley Kubrick epic.  Lynch has been either blessed or panned by critics, with either low or moderate box office success for the past twenty-plus years.  But, The Straight Story is different then any of his other films.  Its simplicity is what surprised the movie-audience and critics, and surprised me as well.  The style in which it was filmed was…different, and I liked it at times; the long tracking shots, long takes, unfolded stories within the dialogue of a ten-minute scene.  It was impressively good!

Its acting was pretty good as well!  Richard Farnsworth was having a lot of difficulty around set due to his own condition which prevented him from doing a large number of takes (which David Lynch is notorious for on previous movies), having bone cancer.  He is able to introduce to you a character that could be the elderly man next door, who you don’t know what adventure he’s concocting or what risks he is daring to take.  Farnsworth went was going through so much pain that a year after the film wrapped, he committed suicide.  He was 80 years old.

A couple little facts on production of this movie:  It was shot independently, on a modest budget of $10 million.  The crew filmed the scenes of the same route the real Alvin Straight took on his cross-country trip to Wisconsin, filming it all in chronological order.  The movie was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and debuted handsomely at the Cannes Film Festival, and it is the only Lynch film that David Lynch did not have a hand in (although his long time associate and recurring collaborator Mary Sweeney was co-writer of the screenplay).  But the director had to throw one curveball in with this drama (as he has tended to do with all his movies), so, in the DVD, he has no chapter selections whatsoever, because he wants the audience to watch his movies as a whole and not in sections like some tend to do.

The Straight Story concentrates primarily on the character of Alvin Straight and his six-week journey across Iowa, where he meets many new faces, encounters problems he has never come across before, and comes to realize why he is traveling nearly 300 miles to see his ill, hot tempered brother.  It also concentrates on the acting; that’s what moves the story along at its slow spots.

Hm, what would I rate this one?  Lets say a high 4 out of 7 stars?  I need to watch this movie again to have a better opinion over it, I think.

But all in all, a good family film that I would recommend when you’re in the presence of good company, friends, or family.  Its that sort of movie you can chuckle to, smile with, sigh with relief, and shed a tear to.

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January 2016 Update: This blog is under reconstruction. Please be patient while we gradually remove old material, posts, and pages, and create new ones. Thank you.
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One Response to The Straight Story (1999)

  1. Zach S. says:

    Lynch may be one of the most twisted, crazy directors of our age, the Darren Aronofsky of an earlier era. Straight Story is his only attempt at something not offensive. I watched it back in highschool (so I may think differently now) but I found it really boring.


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