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Featured DVD Review: The Station Agent

January 8th, 2012

The Station Agent - Buy from Amazon

The Station Agent came out in 2003 and was surrounded by quite a bit of Awards Season Buzz. It did walk away with three Independent Spirit Awards, but was shut out at most of the major awards shows. It was a very small film, costing less than $500,000 to make, so perhaps it just flew beneath the radar. If you missed it last time, is it worth grabbing now?

The Movie

Peter Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a socially introverted man, who cut himself off from the world, because his dwarfism led to him being the target of unwanted attention. His only contact with the world in through the model train shop he works in with Henry Styles, the owner. The two share a love of trains, both models and the real thing, and are in even in the local trainspotting club together. They are also the closest things to friends either of them have. Henry is quite old, but it still comes as a shock to Fin when his friend passes away suddenly. Because of Henry's death, the model train shop will be closed, but Fin inherited a small parcel of land with an old, small train depot on it. The lawyer mentions he's been in the area and while it looks pretty, there's nothing there. When the lawyer emphasizes, "nothing", Fin is instantly sold on the place and he packs his bag and moves to Newfoundland, New Jersey.

The promise of "nothing" turns out to be a bit of an overstatement. Fin is only there one day when he meets Joe Oramas. Joe normally lives in Manhattan, but he's taking care of his dad's food truck, while his dad is sick and Joe's regular spot is right in front of where Fin lives. (Why he decided to park it by a deserted train depot in the first place is beyond me.) To call Joe talkative is a massive understatement. Fin can barely order a coffee in-between Joe telling him his life story. On his way to the nearest convenience store, he's nearly run over by Olivia Harris, who was distracted by her glasses. Then on the way back, she nearly runs him over again when she accidentally spills coffee on herself. Later that day he meets Cleo, a young African-American girl. Although saying he meets her is not quite accurate. She starts to follow him while he is on his walk, and when he turns around, she runs away. The next day, which is day two in a town he was promised nothing, he meets Emily, the town librarian, who screams in his face when she first sees him. (In her defense she thought she was alone the in library.)

And with that the major players are introduced. We are not even half an hour into the movie and we are hitting spoiler territory. Well, not really, because not a lot happens in the movie that one could call spoilers. The film is a very simple tale of character interactions. We watch as Fin slowly lets his guard down and becomes more and more open to actual human interactions. We also learn a lot more about Olivia's back story and what she is dealing with. The audience will get a lot of pleasure out of these simple interactions thanks to the writing and the acting, both of which are award-worthy. I think the only complaint I can come up with is the pacing. Even fans of the film will admit it has a deliberate pace. That said, fans of independent cinema will certainly want to own this film, while even most neophytes will enjoy it enough to watch it more than once.

The Extras

There are no extras on this DVD. There were extras on the previous DVD release, but that DVD came out eight years ago, more or less, and it is out of print and way too expensive to get new.

The Verdict

When The Station Agent first came out on DVD, I named it as one of the Picks of the Week. If you were lucky enough to grab it then, there's zero reason to buy this version. However, if you didn't buy it, spending $7 for this DVD is a better deal than spending $40 for an out of print edition from a reseller.

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