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Wayners Goes Short on The Station Agent

Published August 15, 2005 in Movie Vault
By Wayne Aronsen | Image property of Miramax
The Station Agent The Station Agent
Written and directed by Tom McCarthy. Maybe you can see a pattern here: a partiality to films written and directed by the same person. Guilty as charged. Seeing the same name twice tells me there is a labor of love. But does it work here?

Like great music, a good film almost always has a simple harmony that flows in and out of the story with ease. Together with economy of language and exquisite timing, "The Station Agent" proves it to be true- and one of my favorites.

The Station Agent

Small is good. Peter Dinklace, as the main character, proves it. Without any knowledge of the proper term, I can only repeat a line from his character (Vin): "Take a good look!" as he stands on a bar top, displaying himself as a "dwarf". Again, here is a group of overlooked people who quietly make their lives work. But the beauty of this film is that the viewer grows comfortable with the three main characters-as troubled as they are, and their appearances no longer matter. What's inside, does.

Vin (Dinklace) is a train devotee and he inherits a small depot on the Jersey coast, (no Jersey jokes, you New Yorkers -I grew up there). He's a dwarf-he wants a place alone, so it's perfect. Except that Joe (Bobby Cannavale) a Cuban lunch truck owner, sets up shop outside the depot door. No rest for you, Vin, not with Joe and the grieving Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) who almost runs you down-twice.

The film takes on that universal theme: do we, as people, get mixed up with each other, and is it worth it? There is risk, and God knows, a daily dose of pain and rejection.

Joe is the matchmaker of the three. Nosey and infectious, he is like a missionary sent by God to this remote Jersey backwater (there's not even a town to be seen) where this small man proves that size is in the eye of the beholder. Not that he is tough. Just that he perseveres.

Quiet humor: my favorite. Humor out of the absurdities of life. But there is a catch. There has to be someone to join you on the trip. Learning to trust is hard for Vin.

At one points he tells Joe, "I want to be left alone". And so it is... for a while.

Olivia is the distressed, suicidal mother who lost a young son. The three "walk the line" together; on the train tracks and into each other's lives.

Films like "The Station Agent" appear to be too simple. But simplicity and truth are not easy to come by. McCarthy takes us on an easy train ride into the heart. Join him.

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Wayne Aronsen
Sources: Image property of Miramax

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