Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quacking BetaMax: The Station Agent

Another of my favorites in the up-and-coming, but already there, and everyone doesn't quite know who they are writer/director category is Thomas McCarthy. His latest film "Win Win" was a big favorite of mine, so I decided to revisit some of his previous films. He wrote the animated feature "Up" (2009), "The Visitor" (2007), and "The Station Agent" (2003). All of which received nominations from the Oscars or Sundance for either the writing or the acting. A common theme for Thomas McCarthy is the battled outsider that is looking for solace, but is challenged by the innocence of humanity to befriend someone and work with them for the greater good.

For the "Station Agent" we follow Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) who has recently inherited an old railroad station from a friend and fellow railfan. The station is in a small New Jersey town, which is exactly what Finbar is seeking as compared to the big city life of New York City. The life of solitude that Finbar is attracted to is a result of the social acceptance of individuals with dwarfism. Too often people are caught gawking at Finbar and even at the Station he cannot escape the attention of others. However, the problem is that for so much of his life he has been on the defense that when someone genuinely wants to befriend him that he pushes them away. I applaud Peter Dinklage for taking on this role. I have seen him in other films and the guy can act. Who can forget him in "Elf" jumping on the table and attacking Will Ferrell.

But this movie is about so much more than just the height of a man. This is a movie about the genuine friendship from the emotionally scarred Patricia Clarkson (Olivia), loveable Bobby Cannavale (Joe), and youthful Michelle Williams (Emily). Each of these characters are missing something in their lives and Finbar brings them all together. For Olivia it is the lost family member that she has not forgiven herself for. For Joe it is the connection of someone his own age as he deals with the responsibilities of looking after his elderly father. Finally, there is Emily who has been taken advantage of for her beauty and mistreated by her boyfriend that just wants to be respected.

One of the more powerful scenes is when Finbar has opened himself up to the idea that maybe he can be accepted as normal only to get hurt again, which leads him to following in the stereotypes of excessive drinking and stands on the bar and tells everyone to look at him. He is so emotionally broken down at this moment that your heart aches for him.

Many may know Thomas McCarthy for his acting, but I for one enjoy his writing just a bit more. "The Station Agent" is easily a 4 Quack movie and I cannot wait to see what Thomas McCarthy can offer up next.

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