The Straight Story

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director:David Lynch
Writers:John Roach and Mary Sweeney
Walt Disney Pictures; G; 110 minutes
Cast:Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton

David Lynch has made a G-rated film for Disney. If this can happen anything can, which should come as welcome news for anyone attempting the impossible at the millennium's end.

The Straight Story is eloquent, elegant, and simple. It tells the real-life tale of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), a 73-year old Iowan who set out to visit his sick brother in Wisconsin on a trusty lawnmower. Lynch, formerly a poet of the disturbed, brings his technical expertise and uncanny knack for capturing humanity to The Straight Story, which becomes an elegy for simplicity, joy in the journey, and life's delicate beauty.

Nominated for an Oscar in 1979, Richard Farnsworth has again provided the skills necessary for a win. He's craggy, weathered, and entirely believable as the plain Midwesterner who nourishes a plain dream when his health begins to decline. Sissy Spacek is his slow, speech-impaired daughter, but many of the film's powerful moments occur when Alvin encounters folks on the road: a pregnant teen runaway, uppity cyclists, a fellow WWII vet. Poignancy and poetic force accumulate into a stunning end. Perhaps Lynch realized that the only radical gesture in the late '90s was to do something wholesome, decent, and unironic, and still have it smack of genius.

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