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Lynch Goes Straight

The Straight Story isn't your average Disney pic

Add movie-making to your list of activities that lead to strange bedfellows: David Lynch has directed The Straight Story, Disney's latest G-rated film. Consider this: Lynch's finest movie moments include an auto accident victim digging around with her finger inside her own skull, a dog parading around with a human hand in its mouth, and a lunatic on nitrous oxide screaming "I'll fuck anything that moves." Disney's finest moments include a mouse struggling to control magic dancing brooms, and a really, really good flying nanny. This movie would be worth seeing if only to understand the resolution of this apparent Lynch-Disney paradox.

The movie introduces us to Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) lying prostrate on his own kitchen floor, his bad hips preventing him from rising to his feet after a fall. Straight has waited patiently on the floor, and is finally aided to his feet by his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) and a neighbor. After this rather pathetic introduction, and an embarrassing and disheartening exchange at the hospital, Straight shrugs off his doctor's advice and, to his whole town's amusement, sets off to visit his ailing brother some 400 miles away - on a ride mower. His reasons for the trip are s.ple: he can't see well enough to have a driver's license, he hates the bus, and he doesn't want to put anyone through the trouble of driving him there. In short, this man spends five weeks driving from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower out of PRIDE. What is hard to explain about this story is that even though this sounds like the set up to one of a thousand Jeff Foxworthy jokes, he is right to be proud. He has arrived near the end of his life living on his own terms. This is a true story.

True to Lynch's usual MO, Straight is no stranger to the dark side of human nature. But where Lynch usually shows his characters embroiled in the strange and wrong, Straight's story is one of remembrance, and its delivery is free of cruelty or gore. The haunting memories of war, the loss of seven children, the death of his wife and the care of his misunderstood daughter have all tested Straight, but he has survived them all with hope and dignity intact. Although there is no reason to believe that the movie will deviate from it G-rated trajectory, the audience squirms each time the music slows, fearing gory tragedy around the next bend. Yes, even within the strictures of a G-rating, Lynch finds room to indulge his penchant for what is eerie and surreal just off the mainstream. His reputation allows him to plant reminders of the real danger and horror that linger in Straight's memory into the viewer's mind with very subtle cues. However, what seems to have interested Lynch most about this story is exactly how sweet and s.ple it is in light of the morbid details of Straight's life.

The Straight Story is a touching and very well-made film. Everything about it - like a ride mower going no faster than 5 mph - moves slowly. It features long, drifting shots that are consistent with the pace of Alvin's journey, and unfolds in such an unhurried manner that the audience at times is challenged to be as patient as Straight. We see some of Lynch's usual crew - from Mary Sweeny the producer/writer/editor of the film who edited most of Lynch's well known works, to Everett McGill - Big Ed from Twin Peaks, to the composer Angelo Badalamente who scored Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and many others for Lynch, to a great cameo by Harry Dean Stanton, long time Lynch collaborator. Look for Richard Farnsworth to be nominated for an Oscar. It is G-rated, but certainly meant for adults. The final word on this movie is remarkable: David Lynch fans and Disney fans alike will enjoy this movie.


The Straight Story
rated G
2 hours 31 minutes

Richard Farnsworth
Sissy Spacek
Jane Heitz
Everett McGill
Jennifer Edwards

website: The Straight Story