The Station Agent Review
By Matt Langdon
Meet Finbar McBride. Besides having a cool name, Finbar's (Peter Dinklage) most noticeable attribute is that he is a dwarf who stands about 4-foot-5. And he's bitter about this. As a result, he is a laconic fellow who keeps to himself and has no friends. But he does have a passion for trains. One day Fin's work colleague dies and leaves him a train depot in New Jersey as an inheritance. Fin - who apparently has nothing else to do in his life - packs up his suitcase, walks many miles (on the train tracks) into New Jersey, and sets up his new home inside the run-down depot.
Right from the beginning we are brought into the leisurely pace of Fin's ascetic life. He doesn't eat or drink much, he spends his days studying old trains or reading about them, and he walks almost everywhere because he can't drive and he doesn't like crowded buses or trains. And it's pretty obvious why; every time he gets around people they stare at him and make comments.
One day after arriving Fin is greeted by Joe (Bobby Cannavale) a good-spirited Cuban-American who owns a very out-of-the-way hotdog stand that is near the depot. Joe is eager for attention so he coaxes, prods and pries into Fin's life but Fin won't talk. Enter Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) an eccentric local woman who befriends Joe and Fin and spices things up a bit - not by being sexy or anything but by being batty enough to make everyone feel at ease.
What plot there is of The Station Agent is somewhat obvious, and the film doesn't go anywhere you don't expect. But as a character-driven drama/comedy it is so well directed, written, and acted that it ends up feeling more original and fresh than it is. Part of the reason is because the film doesn't beat you over the head; the audience is allowed the time to observe the actors and the conflicts that slowly unfold.
The film - written and directed by first time film director Tom McCarthy - is sprinkled with other character actors including a young black girl (Raven Goodwin) who inquisitively pops up every so often and a local librarian (Michelle Williams) who has a girl-next-door appeal and who finds herself attracted to Fin. The most enjoyable performance of the whole bunch is Cannavale whose hotdog stand owner is as awkward and chatty as he is endearing and funny.
Essentially each of the characters is a loner but with distinct characteristics; Fin is bitter about life, Joe is upbeat despite personal setbacks, and Olivia is confused since the death of her son. Yet none of them know how to reach out for help. Throughout the film these three very different personalities find a way to connect and make room for each other in their lonely lives. It's the kind of film that wins the hearts and minds of discerning audiences. And -- by the way -- it won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
The DVD includes commentary from McCarthy and a handful of very abbreviated deleted scenes. Worth a look, even if the extras are thin.
High in station.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 5th December 2003
Box Office Worldwide: $8.7M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 145 Rotten: 8
Cast & Crew
Starring: Peter Dinklage as Finbar McBride, Patricia Clarkson as Olivia Harris, Bobby Cannavale as Joe Oramas, Michelle Williams as Emily, Raven Goodwin as Cleo (neighbor girl), Josh Pais as Carl, John Slattery as David, Jayce Bartok as Chris, Joe Lo Truglio as Danny (as Joe Lotruglio), Paul Benjamin as Henry Styles, Jase Blankfort as Store Customer, Paula Garcés as Cashier (Paula Garces), Richard Kind as Louis Tiboni, Lynn Cohen as Patty at the Good to Go, Marla Sucharetza as Janice