The Station Agent (2003) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language, some drug content, and some sexuality
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Paul Benjamin, Raven Goodwin, Joe Lo Truglio
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Screenplay: Thomas McCarthy
Review published May 11, 2004
Peter Dinklage (Living in Oblivion, Elf) plays Fin McBride, a dwarf train enthusiast who inherits a small station house in New Jersey. As he is tired of the city, and of the people who constantly judge him, Fin is happy to start a new life where there aren't many people around to disturb him. Fin soon finds that he still attracts attention wherever he goes, as he has a gregarious neighbor with a mobile coffee coach (Bobby Cannavale) that is hell-bent on befriending Fin, whatever it takes. Fin is also almost run down by a woman with other things on her mind (Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April), including the loss of her son and dealing with marital problems with her separated husband. Circumstances eventually bring the three very different individuals together, as they try to smooth out some very rough edges in each others lives.
The Station Agent is an independent comedy that takes the quiet, subtle road in achieving some modest truths about everyday life. There isn't an overriding point to make, except that there's more to people than meets the surface, and that even those we have little in common with can enrich our lives if we let them.
This is actor Thomas McCarthy's first time as writer, as well as director, and in both counts, the results are a resounding success. These are very rich characters in their own way, and although they are somewhat different than people we may meet on a daily basis, at no time do they ever veer into caricature. It would be easy to set up a few jokes here and there at their expense, but McBride never goes for the obvious gag, letting things proceed naturally, letting the humor of the situation carry each scene. There are occasional lapses into predictability, but even those are handled with enough complexity that never deflating the freshness that imbues the overall tale. The actors are terrific in their roles, reportedly written by McCarthy specifically for each of them.
The Station Agent is a light, refreshing comedy with moments of seriousness that make it a poignant experience for most viewers. With honest characterizations and refreshingly original subject matter, the only downside to it is that it eventually ends.
©2004 Vince Leo