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The Station Agent

The Station Agent

What She said:

She

How about we test the waters with a movie that no one has ever heard of?  Well, that certainly was my thinking when I came across The Station Agent on Netflix.  This 2003 film stars Peter Dinklage, now pretty well known for his turn on Game of Thrones, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Michelle Williams.  It’s classified as a drama, comedy, and art house film.  Of course, it has a little bit of that independent feel, but I would not call this film straight up artsy.

The Station Agent tells the story of train enthusiast Fin.  He’s an antisocial and easily irritated type of guy, mostly due to the fact that he’s a little person and is constantly oodled and mocked because of it.  The film uses these encounters to add comedy to the film, but it’s also sad to watch.  I get the impression that Fin feels like he’s always being stared at, which is why he tries to live in a bubble and ignore the rest of the world.  Anyway, Fin retreats to his fascination with trains as a means of escape, and even works fixing models in a hobby shop.  That is, until his boss and friend Henry unexpectedly dies on the job one day.  Henry’s shop is sold and Fin finds himself out of a job.  But he also finds that he’s inherited a piece of land in Newfoundland, Jew Jersey.

Fin decides to start a new life for himself with his inheritance, and learns that it’s actually an old train station sitting along active tracks.  The parcel also has a couple of actual historic cars on it.  Unfortunately, it’s all in a complete state of disrepair.  Knowing that he has nothing else, Fin sets up shop, without power, running water, or much of anything else.  He makes some unlikely friends in Joe, a loudmouthed Cuban American who operates a roadside snack truck adjacent to the Fin’s ticket station, and older divorcee Olivia.  While the relationships are slow to develop, and not always peachy, the three of them bond and help each other overcome their issues.  In particular, Fin begins to appreciate life and opens up to his new friends in ways he’s never done before.

The Station Agent

I have to say, The Station Agent is a nice story.  The film is quiet and gentle, and yet is moves along well, has sweet moments, and actually delivers a nice payoff.  We get to see the characters grow without it being thrown directly in your face.  At first I thought this film was going to go nowhere—that it would just follow Fin around for a while and then end.  But we learn a good deal about these characters, grow to care for them, and feel their joys and pain as they evolve.  It’s really great to see Fin, in particular, start to give a darn about other people.

The film is not all moodiness—there’s plenty of humorous moments.  Most of these come through the character of Joe, who is your typical blue collar New  Yorker.  He’s honest, persistent, and almost has a child-like quality to him.  Watching him interact with Fin is a joy, as he pokes and prods him until he finally breaks Fin’s shell.  Olivia clearly doesn’t have it all together—she’s lost a son and is going through a difficult divorce—but she’s still likeable.  She’s a little bit of an outside-the-box thinker who is willing to give things a shot.  Even though she seems borderline bipolar, when she’s up she certainly is a beneficial force in Fin’s life.

The Station Agent depicts the gains and pitfalls of small down living.  We get to meet some of the locals in Newfoundland, and they’re not all nice.  But there are characters like Cleo, a young African-American girl who plays at the station, and librarian Emily who have their charms.  Now, part way through the film I started to wonder if this rural town of Newfoundland was real, and was thrilled to learn that yes, it is.  That’s not to say that it exists as represented in this movie, but according to Google maps there are train tracks running through the area and, hold your breath, an actual beat up old ticket station along them.  I like to think that Peter Dinklage is living there when he’s not in Hollywood.

At just 88 minutes this movie is a breeze to get through.  I enjoyed the experience, and recommend it to those who think they’d like the genre.

Thumbs up.

The Station Agent

What He said:

He

Fin is a very quiet and private man. One might even call him anti-social. The movie never gives a specific event or example from his life that explains why he’s this way, but you can assume it is because he is a dwarf and feels ostracized by people. Fin is also a huge train enthusiast. He works at a hobby shop repairing model trains. The owner of the shop is an old man named Henry, who has a similar personality to Fin (Peter Dinlage).

The Station Agent

One day while at work, Henry (Paul Benjamin) passes away. Because he also appears to have had few people in his life, he includes Fin in his will. Henry leaves Fin a piece of land in Newfoundland, NJ. It turns out that the land is an old train station. The land also has a few old train cars on it.

This is a dream scenario for Fin. Besides being a huge lover of trains, Fin is also hoping this will serve as a place of solitude for him, so he decides to move into the train station.

Well despite his desire for some peace and quiet, Fin ends up getting involved in several people’s lives. Cleo (Raven Goodwin) is a young girl who lives nearby and often plays in the fields – and sometimes the old train cars – by Fin’s house. After finding out about his knowledge of trains, she wants Fin to speak in her class at school. Joe (Bobby Cannavale) is an extremely upbeat, talkative, and curious guy who runs a food truck that parks in the lot by Fin’s property. As soon as he sees that someone is living in the train station, he’s all over Fin, and doesn’t let up despite Fin’s best efforts. Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) is an artist who lives by herself after separating from her husband. She’s very polite, but also very private. Emily (Michelle Williams) works at the local library and has trouble with her white trash boyfriend.

Fin has been hurt in the past and really wants no part in these people’s lives, but Joe is absolutely relentless. He insists with hanging out with Fin, even if it’s doing nothing. Joe seems to want to play matchmaker too, because he’s always inviting Oliva along. The three of them starting hanging out a little more and discover they like and might even need one another (some of them have some demons).

The Station Agent

I loved this movie. It was funny, had good drama, and a very familial tone. I like movies involved unconventional friendships or families. I can’t quite explain why, but it appeals to me. There’s something about a bunch of people who don’t expect to be friends, meet later in life, or in an odd way, that I like.

This movie was very well acted. Peter Dinklage was fantastic as the withdrawn and reluctant lead. Bobby Canavale was absolutely hilarious. This guy was so determined to make Fin his friend and he’s really funny too. Patricia Clarkson was also quite funny, but like Fin she also has some past pain. Her character was a bit of a mix of both characters.
Chances are you’ve probably never heard of this movie. I didn’t either, but I really recommend you check it out. it’s a simple, but funny and warm little tale.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said She said seal of approval on March 22, 2014.

 

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