Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Station Agent

Another of the movies that I had the chance to see thanks to the free preview of the Showtime channels is The Station Agent. I see that it has another airing tomorrow (Dec. 26) at 7:00 AM, so I made a point of watching it recently to do a review on here.

Peter Dinklage plays Fin McBride. He's a dwarf who is also a train buff, and he's been able to turn that passion into a job, working at a model train store in Hoboken, NJ, where he builds custom sets for people. His boss, the store owner Henry, is about the only friend he has. Being a dwarf, Fin has been subjected to all sorts of gawking and other abuse from people, and he seems relatively happy being alone, or at least as happy as he's ever going to be.

But then, Henry suddenly suffers a massive heart attack that kills him and changes Fin's life. Henry's will stipulates that the store is going to be sold off and its assets liquidated. Fin, however, is given an inheritance in the form of an abandoned train station in the small town of Newfoundland, NJ, one of those places that movies of the pre-World War II era had, but is now in disuse because there's no reason to have passenger train service. Still, it's a reasonably nice place for Fin to be alone and do whatever it is that he does. (One thing the movie never seems to mention is how Fin supports himself.)

As you can probably guess, however, Fin isn't going to get to stay alone. The old station is located along the main road that goes through town although it seems to be just outside of town. In any case, it's a good place for Joe (Bobby Cannavale) to set up his food truck, as a stream of commuters who must presumably be regulars stop to buy some of the truck's Cuban-style cafe con leche. Joe is running the truck for his ailing father, who lives some way away. He's also very outgoing, and tries to strike up a friendship with Fin, who doesn't particularly want it.

Fin also meets another adult, but under slightly less favorable circumstances. Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) is an artist separated from her husband after the death of her son. She got their lake house in the Newfoundland area, and one day she nearly runs over Fin. She apologizes to him, but has quite a bit of sympathy for him, and tries to befriend him, too, although she's not as obnoxiously (from Fin's point of view) outgoing as Joe. Olivia has bought Joe's coffee, although she doesn't otherwise know Joe particularly well; through Fin, however, she and Joe will get to know each other better.

There are two other minor characters in the form of the librarian Emily (Michelle Williams), and 11-year-old Cleo (Raven Goodwin), who doesn't realize at first that Fin is an adult but even when she does find out treats him like a normal person. Fin, for his part, still doesn't seem ready to open up to other people.

There's not much of a plot here, as The Station Agent is a slice-of-life movie about a couple of fairly troubled people. As such, the movie isn't going to be to everybody's liking, and I can certainly understand why some reviewers took a decided dislike to the movie. And there are some continuity problems over how these characters support themselves. But for the most part, I really enjoyed these characters and the story of where life takes them.

If you're looking something different from typical Hollywood, The Station Agent isn't a bad place to start.

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