Plot: What’s it about?
This film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight, who made a journey that captivated the entire nation at the time. Alvin (Richard Farnsworth) has never liked to rely on others to get him through the rough spots, but as he has become older, his health has dropped off more than a little. He can’t walk to well without his two canes and because of his faltering eyesight, he is unable to drive an automobile either. But Alvin still wishes to depend little on others, so he lives a simple life and gets some assistance from his daughter, Rose (Sissy Spacek). Soon, news reaches Alvin that his brother, Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has been struck by a serious stroke and that shakes Alvin up, to say the least. He has not been on good terms with Lyle for a while now and the two haven’t spoken in some time, Alvin decides that he needs to travel to him and mend their relationship. Alvin is unable to drive and the distance is much too far to walk, which leaves him but one choice and while it might be an insane one, Alvin is determined to reach his brother. Can Alvin make it to his brother by riding his 1966 John Deere lawnmower? The distance is great and the odds are against him, but Alvin is sure he can pull through the tough times once again and accomplish his goals.
I’ve always liked the work of David Lynch, so I was sure to check out The Straight Story when it hit the theaters. It might seem like a stretch for Lynch to work within a “G” rated film, but he proves his skills once and for all here, delivering a touching story with incredible heart and breathtaking visuals. The beauty of the landscapes showcased in Alvin Straight’s trek is immense, some of the finest nature shots in recent years, to be honest. But when those images are woven into the storyline here, they’re increased by eons in depth, which means they pack that much more of an impact. This is the story of one man and his goals, but it is also about the world that surrounds that one man, from the people he meets to the landscapes he travels across. The storm sequences were my personal favorites, but I think the film as a whole is very well made, in all respects. The cast is also in fine form, with Harry Dean Stanton, Sissy Spacek, and the late Richard Farnsworth at the head of the performing list. I give this film my highest recommendation and even though the disc lacks supplement, it is more than worth the asking price, in my opinion.
This might not seem like David Lynch’s usual work, but if you look under the surface, this fits right in with most of his previous films. A few elements of Lynch’s style might be absent, but the basic structure is present and that is what keeps this one in pace with his other works. This film has a simple nature, but it is still a little offbeat and tells a unique story of one man, who strives to reach his almost impossible goals. The lead has limitations of all sorts, but still gives his life all he has, even if others don’t place much faith in him. This is what brings the story into Lynch’s realm of mastery, even if the usual Lynch obvious oddities aren’t in full effect. Lynch handles this film with ease, using his excellent cast to perfection and never really stumbling in the least. This is a film that his fans will not want to miss, so please don’t allow the rating to dissuade you from this title. Other Lynch films include Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Wild At Heart, and Lost Highway. The cast here is also tremendous and includes Richard Farnsworth (Misery, The Natural), Everett McGill (My Fellow Americans, Brubaker), John Farley (Black Sheep, Almost Heroes), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, A Civil Action), and Sissy Spacek (Carrie, ‘Night Mother).
Video: How does it look?
The Straight Story is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film uses visuals to enhance the story, so it was crucial for this transfer to be superb and it delivers on all counts. The beautiful scenic shots look excellent in this presentation, which adds a lot to the film and helps move the story along as well. The colors come across in sharp form also, though more natural in tone, which means no super rich hues emerge. But that is good in this case, as there is a lot of natural scenery and you don’t need the extra richness in the end. The flesh tones look good also, no distortion at all in that area. No contrast issues surface either, with high detail levels and accurate shadow depth throughout the picture. I also saw no signs of compression flaws or excess print wear, another terrific transfer from the folks at the Mouse House.
Audio: How does it sound?
The film’s simple nature doesn’t seem like it would offer much chance for powerful audio, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is much more active than you might think. The surrounds see plenty of usage in terms of subtle audio, but also get to kick up some power now and again as well. Now this isn’t as powerful as an action movie by any means, but this mix packs a nice punch in terms of the source material. So I doubt anyone will be let down by the surround activity, as even the subwoofer gets a few chances to shine. The dialogue sounds clean and crisp as well, no volume or clarity problems in the least arise. At the heart of this mix however, is the superb musical score, which also sounds terrific in this mix. This disc also contains English subtitles, just in case you need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer, but no other bonus materials. Also of note here is the absence of chapter stops, which was the decision of director David Lynch. I know this might throw some folks off, but this is Lynch’s vision and his choice, so I have no problem with this in the end.