A LOOK BACK: The Straight Story
If you read my blog (which I hope you do), I put together a watch list recently of Disney+ films I want to see. On the top of that list was David Lynch's The Straight Story which I watched last night. I was curious about the film because I thought it was odd seeing Lynch's name attached to a Disney film. The man is known for such bizarre and more adult tales as Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart. I am happy to report that he managed to do so triumphantly.
The Straight Story is a true story about a 73 year old man named Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) who finds out his brother had a stroke. Having received some bad news about predictions of his own health, Alvin decides to set on the road to see his brother. He wants to make the journey by himself. It's very important to him to do so to make peace with his own life. So, he leaves his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) and hits the road. The problem is he does not have a driver's license, nor does he have a car. So, he hitches a trailer to hi 1966 John Deere lawn mower and sets forth. Along the way from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin, he meets people who he befriends and offers wisdom to them.
I was pleasantly surprised at the level of optimism Lynch conveyed in this film. Could it be dangerous for an old man to travel alone across country? Of course. But, instead of watching suffering, we see hope. We see hope that strangers can be neighborly and offer support when they don't have to. For example, at one point, Alvin is almost killed going down a hill. At the bottom, he is greeted by people who offer him help. One of them, a retired John Deere employee Danny Riordan (James Cada), let's him camp out in his yard. He genuinely cares for Alvin, even offering to drive him the rest of the way. But, Alvin is adamant that he must complete his journey himself. He tells him, "You're a kind man talking to a stubborn man."
Yes, there are moments of that bizarre storytelling Lynch is known for. There is a woman who hits a deer and goes hysterical talking about how she's hit 13 deer in the last several weeks. In a fit of despair, she drives off. Alvin then has the deer as his dinner. Despite the oddness of the scene, it still surprisingly works.
There was just a wonderful cast of characters that come into Alvin's life along the way which make the fruition of his journey all the more meaningful. Farnsworth's performance is absolutely beautiful. He has this quiet understated demeanor and plays his character fairly straightforward.
While this is a Disney movie, it's not really a movie for children. There's nothing offensive in it, per say. But, the movie has a slow leisurely pace that might not hold children's attention. But, the pace is the right pace for the movie and should appeal to adults and maybe even teens despite its G-rating. If you get a chance, I highly suggest watching it on Disney+.
The Straight Story was originally released in 1999.