The Straight Story (1999) Review

Posted on Posted in Movies, Reviews/Commentary

Written for Luther College Chips on December 9, 1999 with Catherine B. and Moid A.

Dan: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure wasn’t expecting the sheer pandemonium that we encountered at this week’s movie viewing.

Katie: Well, what do you mean, Dan?

Dan: Who would have thought that a Sunday matinee for a movie that no one’s heard of could have drawn a crowd to rival the opening night of Star Wars?

Moid: As a matter of fact, I was waiting in line at that fine Mongolian wok in the Caf and I actually overheard some chatter of excitement by many of our fellow students who apparently had heard of this movie and were almost dying to see it.

Dan: Well, I’ll admit that I’d heard of The Straight Story mostly because of its uncharacteristic G-rating given that the film was directed by David Twin Peaks Lynch, a man who I thought only knew how to make bizarre R-rated films. Now he has seemingly moved into making bizarre G-rated films.

Katie: I sure was reluctant to see The Straight Story because it looked and sounded really boring. I mean, how interesting could a movie about a guy, Alvin Straight, traveling from Iowa to Wisconsin on a riding lawn mower really be? The first part definitely started slow and was as boring as I expected, but it picked up speed as the plot developed.

Moid: Yes, it definitely moved slowly not only in the beginning, but also during several parts in the middle. I mean a lawn mower can only go so fast.

Dan: I don’t know, you two, I found the opening to be somewhat heartwarming. Sissy Spacek gave a dynamite performance as Straight’s daughter and as for the middle, there were some touching movements featuring characters that seemed genuine (if a bit neurotic). After all, any movie that throws a few jabs at the state of Wisconsin can’t be half bad…

Katie: Excuse me, Minnesota boy, but I take offense to that comment being from Green Bay and all (Go Packers). I totally disagree with your statement about the characters being genuine—I thought they were exaggerated and most of them were terrible actors. The runaway pregnant teenager whose life was turned around by talking to Alvin was a little too much.

Moid: Okay, let’s put our petty little differences aside and stick to the topic in hand. Exaggerated wouldn’t be the word I would use, I would have to agree with Dan and say that Richard Farnsworth “Alvin” did an awesome job portraying the feelings of a frail old man trying to make peace with his estranged brother.

Dan: We might not agree on the relevance of some scenes, but y’all have to agree that the camera work was astounding at times. The Straight Story was filmed largely in Iowa and Wisconsin, a fact that is pretty obvious and recognizable. There were a couple of times where I expected Alvin to pull into Decorah and camp out in front of the Library.

Katie: The camera work was okay when it was covering scenery, but at times it was kind of sketchy. They showed too many shots of Alvin’s face, which wasn’t expressive enough. The fact that it was based on a true story was interesting and made it more meaningful.  I have to admit that some parts were touching.

Dan: Yeah, I know that I hadn’t seen you cry that hard since the end of For Love of the Game. So, do you guys think that this film deserves all of the critical acclaim that it has been garnering in its limited theatrical release?

Katie: I personally don’t feel that it was movie of the year or anything, but overall I was entertained by it.

Moid: Dan and the guys by the Mongolian wok hyped up the movie a little too much. It wasn’t an Oscar-worthy production but it was definitely worth the ten-minute wait outside.

Dan: I’d agree.  Overall it was a good movie with maybe a few slow spots. By the way, Moid, how about us finally getting a date for a movie! Even if we had to share…

Moid: Yeah, I wouldn’t know what to do if I had got rejected again.

Katie: Well, I normally wouldn’t exactly consider this a date, but for you guys, I will. You know, threesomes are always fun.