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The Straight story

Threat advisory: Severe - Severe risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

In memory of Alvin Straight: 1920-1996.

From director David Lynch comes a lyrical portrait of one man's real journey across the USA heartland. Filmed along the route that the actual Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) traversed in 1994 from Laurens, Iowa, to Mount Zion, Wisconsin, The Straight story chronicles Alvin's patient odyssey and those he meets along the way. When not rolling along at 8 kilometres an hour aboard his 1966 lawnmower, Alvin encounters a number of strangers, from a teenage runaway to a fellow World War II veteran. By sharing his life's earned wisdom with simple stories, Alvin has a profound impact on these characters that colour his pilgrimage.

Also starring Academy Award-winner Sissy Spacek as Rose Straight and Harry Dean Stanton as Lyle Straight. Written by John Roach and Mary Sweeney.

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Intelligence analyst

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Theatrical report

Now this is a road movie!

In Iowa, no less. Iowa is world famous for two things: the birthplace of both Captain James T Kirk and the Silicorn Valley (mostly in the person of Chris Pirillo and the digital extravaganza that is Lockergnome). That's it. Nothing else ever happens there. And that's why the story of Alvin and his lawnmower adventure is so remarkable.

From the opening scene to the closing credits, The Straight story tells it damned straight. This is life between the corn rows, as you, dear reader, in your hectic urban lifestyle will never know. Unless you see this film, of course, but try not to be pedantic for a while, h minutes? David's direction is both personal and metaphysical. It delves deep into the psyche of the main character, exposing his flaws as well as bringing forth his inner light. The great journey that is life has writ large upon the man that is Alvin and etched deep into his existence. His pedestrian pace evokes not the impatience of a big city traffic jam but the gentle flow of a quiet river, meandering through the unhurried solitude of virgin countryside.

Hmmm... perhaps I should increase my medication.

Anyhoo, this film takes over your busy brain and soaks it in valium. The way you experience time will change and change the way you experience life. You will see the world through Alvin's eyes: a world where lawnmowers travel at just the right speed, where cyclists are a whizzing whoosh of colour and cars an impossible blur. The adagio seeps into you, gradually carrying you off along a floating journey of sighing cornfields and whispering winds.

*Hurriedly increases medication*

Which is not to say that nothing happens, plenty does, but it happens in Alvin's world, not in yours. There are times when things happen so fast no-one could follow them and that's life.

What else do I want to say? Well, the performances are perfect. Richard is Alvin. ornery, weather-beaten, tired, heartbroken, angry and sad, he has reached an age when no experience is new, just the people with whom he's having it. Likewise Sissy's Rose: she's been through so much that she is no longer the reason for her own existence. The theft of her children by an uncaring bureaucracy stopped her life, causing her to live the same day over and over again. (Speaking of which, I heard from the TV that they're playing Groundhog day yet again: how many times can it go to air? Is it some kind of TV scheduler in-joke?) While I am dishing out the praise, remember to listen for Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack: it's blues harp heaven.

The Straight story is replete with Alvin's wisdom and humour, it glows with the gold of an Iowa sunset and soothes you like cold beer on a dusky autumn night. If you're of an age when you can look ahead and see your own old age, or if you just like damned good films, then this is one to see.

Security censorship classification

G

Surveillance time

112 minutes (1:52 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 15 November 2000

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