Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Station Agent (2003)

Movie quotes:
Olivia (Patricia Clarkson): How about you? What made you pick Newfoundland?
Finbar (Peter Dinklage): I wanted to live near Joe.

Joe (Bobby Cannavale): Hey listen, if you guys do something later, can I join you?
Finbar: We're not gonna do something.
Joe: No, I know, but if you do, can I join you?
Finbar: We're not gonna do something later.
Joe: Okay, but, if you do?
Finbar: Okay.
Joe: Cool.

Finbar: You said you weren't going to talk to me if I sat here, Joe.
Joe: I haven't said anything in like twenty minutes.
[Finbar checks his pocket watch]
Finbar: Nine.
Joe: You timed me?
Finbar: Mm-hmm.
Joe: That's cold, bro.

Finbar: I'm retired, actually.
Emily (Michelle Williams): Aren't you a little young to be retired?
Finbar: No, dwarves retire early. Common fact.
Emily: Yeah, lazy dwarves.

At a glance:
Thomas McCarthy wrote and directed this gentle, slow-moving and thought-provoking slice of life about a train-loving man (who also happens to be a dwarf) who retires to an inherited station depot in the wilds of New Jersey

Our review:
Thomas McCarthy was, once upon a time, just a lowly television actor. In 2003, he turned his attention to writing and directing, and we are all the better for it. The Station Agent tells the tale of Finbar (Peter Dinklage), a train afficionado who lives in Hoboken and works in a small model train shop. When the shop owner dies, he is left with the inheritance of an old train depot in an out-of-the-way area of New Jersey. A lonely loner, this suits Finbar perfectly, until his life intersects with a couple of characters (Olivia, played by Patricia Clarkson; and Joe, played by Bobby Cannavale) who also inhabit this area. Gradually, his life and outlook changes.

McCarthy has made two films now (this one in good, but 2007’s The Visitor is even better), and each film reflects his love of trains – they figure somewhat in both stories. Both films also show that McCarthy is in no hurry to tell his story or to tell a conventional narrative; we are on a journey, and it is always very much in doubt where we are going to end up. That is so refreshing in these days of cliched plots and happy endings. It’s an actor’s movie, too (perhaps ex-actors do make better directors because of this), and the three leads shine, as does the always organic Michelle Williams in a slightly smaller role than the big three. Dinklage, a friend of McCarthy’s, is a standout, however, delivering a quiet, slowly evolving performance that has its burst-out moments as well.Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"...watching these friends interact is what the movie is about, not what they look like, not what they do, not what they talk about, but how they feel toward one another."
- John J. Puccio (

"It's The Station Agent's meditation on the smaller things in life that make it such a big deal."
- Damon Wise (Empire Magazine)

"The brilliance of Peter Dinklage’s performance as the ironclad loner is that he doesn’t much care."
- James Christopher (Times [UK])

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