The Station Agent (2003)
Critic Consensus: A sweet and quirky film about a dwarf, a refreshment stand operator, and a reclusive artist connecting with one another.
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as Finbar McBride
as Olivia Harris
as Joe Oramas
as Henry Styles
as Store Customer
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Critic Reviews for The Station Agent
Mr. Dinklage projects both size and intelligence in the fascinating reticence of his face.
There isn't a character, location or situation in The Station Agent that could exist anywhere other than in a screenplay.
Peter Dinklage details Fin?s solitude in single glances, but his countenance also warms to eventual friendship. It?s an attenuated, reserved, realistic performance ? bolstered when we learn Fin is silent because shouting only summons repressed rage.
Audience Reviews for The Station Agent
Much better than it's contemporary "Tiptoes" (also starring Peter Dinklage and made in the same year), "The Station Agent" reflects on the lives of dwarves with a thoughtful outlook. Dinklage is the highlight of the film, portraying surly, friendless dwarf Fin. Fin inherits a railway station and meets many small town characters who try to open him up to friendship. While I enjoyed Dinklage's performance, and the way he changes throughout the narrative, the other characters were just so pathetically annoying I couldn't understand their friendship. Patricia Clarkson is such a mess as artist Olivia and any attempt that McCarthy had in making her human came off as melodramatic. Cannavale plays an eccentric and very friendly food truck employee who is helping his father and wants to be friends with Fin. Their exploits include chasing trains, having sleepovers, and helping each other heal. I just didn't buy the interpersonal relationships, and I didn't like many of the characters. Fin is interesting, but has no backstory, and so it's difficult for us to reconcile why he is the way he is.
A dwarf moves to an isolated town in New Jersey and befriends a coffee salesman and a divorcee.
Peter Dinklage is the highlight of this film. His performance is exceptional. However, the film begins with Dinklage's character resisting connections with Olivia and Joe, and Fin is so surly, so uncommunicative, and oftentimes aggressive that it defies believability that Joe and Olivia would continue to pursue Fin's friendship. In a way, Fin's defenses become the film's central conflict, but aside from societal rejection, what is the source of Fin's damage? It seems clear to anyone that Joe and Olivia are not prejudiced against dwarfs, so why the resistance?
Overall, though Dinklage gives a good performance, I found the film's central conflict contrived.
Having just recently gotten into the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones" and finding the character and Golden Globe winning acting of Peter Dinklage very appealing, I decided to look back at one of his major leading roles in The Station Agent. I had seen this film years ago and liked it a lot but on a repeat viewing, I enjoyed it even more.
Fin (Peter Dinklage) is a young man born with dwarfism that has consistently struggled to fit into society. He has a passion for trains and works in a shop selling such items but when his only friend and co-worker dies, he finds that in his late friends will, he has been left an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey. Looking for solitude, he packs up his things and moves there only to find unusual friendships developing with struggling artist Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), trying to overcome a personal tragedy of her own and Joe (Bobby Cannavale) an overly friendly Cuban hot-dog vendor, desperate for some form of interaction with people.
This plot summary might not sound like much but don't be fooled into thinking this is an uneventful or boring affair. It's far from it. Yes, not a lot is going on this film but that exactly the appeal. It's filled with such attention to detail and strong characterisation that this film is plentiful. I'm a sucker for these type of low-key, subtle and observant dramas and this debut from director Tom McCarthy is a perfect example of that particular sub-genre. It's a slow moving and thoughtful film that sensitively deals with feelings of loneliness and isolation. To embody the emptiness, McCarthy is aided with three superb lead performances which are poignant and heartfelt but more importantly, realistic. Not a lot going is on in their lives but that's the very thing that holds your attention. It's the bond and the relationship they develop with one another that gives this film it's heart. McCarthy handles the material delicately and seems entirely aware of the appeal that these characters have, as are the performers; Dinklage is an actor with many qualities and it's great to see him in a rare but well deserved leading role. Patricia Clarkson is always an actress I've admired and it baffles me why she isn't seen more often. The biggest surprise though, is Bobby Cannavale who provides the comic-relief to the suffering of the other two. That being said, this film isn't the slightest bit depressing despite the subject matter. In fact, it's a charming and absorbing human tale.
An original and affecting debut debut from director Tom McCarthy that displays a genuine warmth and respect for struggling individuals. His ability to be perceptive and humorous is rarely captured so well on screen.
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