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The Straight Story

Filthy says:
"It's pretty
fucking good!"

When I'm old, I'm going to be a pain in the ass. I'm going to throw the newspaper back at the paper boy, shoot pellets at kids who come into my yard and send shit I buy back to the manufacturers with single-spaced typed rants about my incontinence and how they tried to kill me. I'm gonna sit in my house with the TV blaring soap operas I don't even watch, and with a little lawn sprinkler going for hours in the front yard because I forgot about it. My house will be filthy, with urine stains on every floor, stacks of National Geographics to the ceiling, half-eaten tins of cat food but no cats, and plaster walls that are decaying and crumbling around me.

Many of you probably hope for a similar future. We'd all like to map out our golden years and live them as we dream, but we can't unless we plan. I'm planning. I've already started throwing pebbles at ducks and yelling at neighbor kids. Next year, I want to start poisoning squirrels, and the year after, if Mrs. Filthy lets me, I'll start wetting myself. Preparation is the key. You can't go around today humping starlets, paying to have your SUV detailed and buying Hallmark Greeting Cards if you want to be a kooky old fuck tomorrow.

The "Straight Story" gives us kooks pride. It's the story of a nutjob in Iowa with more dignity than any prick you can throw at him. He sets his goals and he achieves them, and only a motherfucking asshole would question why.

Richard Farnsworth is Alvin Straight, a 73 year-old man with diabetes and emphysema. His hips are so bad he needs two canes to get around and he's mostly blind. I know what you're thinking: let's mug him!

Farnsworth lives in a beat house in Laurens, Iowa with his mentally-disabled (not a retard) daughter Sissy Spacek. Laurens is the kind of town where the old guys get together every day, no matter if they like each other or not, because it's all they have to do. And if one of them is late to their gatherings, the others worry, not that he is ill, but that death has visited so closely. One day, Farnsworth learns that his younger brother has suffered a stroke and determines to go visit him, even though they haven't spoken in ten years (sort of like me and my son of a bitch brother-in-law). Being blind and poor means he can't drive, and the bus doesn't go near his brother's shack. So, Farnsworth decides to drive his lawnmower, camping in farm fields and eating wieners and braunschweiger for every meal.

Is he a nut? I'd bet my entire collection of Hustlers on it, but he doesn't give a flying fuck what I think. On his 350 mile journey, which takes six weeks, he meets a runaway teen, a priest, another old guy with World War II still stuck on his mind, and every single decent person in the Midwest, except for the guy who doesn't want to sell him his grabber. Farnsworth is never a hero, or even that friendly, but even asshole bicyclists grow to respect him.

Sounds boring, right? No titties, no anal-action, no fistfights, even after a bartender gives him a Miller Lite (less-filling but does not taste great). Well, it is a little boring, but that's the way the Midwest is. There's no reason to speed up. Besides, almost all the boringness of "Straight Story" pans out if you just sit down and shut the fuck up (unlike the completely confused pain in the ass sitting behind me). An example is a story Farnsworth tells another WWII vet, which seems to be going nowhere until the end. Then, for the first time since seeing Steven Spielberg's "1941," I understood how shitty war can be and why some people are haunted by it forever.

Farnsworth is incredibly restrained. He's just an old guy, playing an old guy, not as a case study on how fucking great old farts are. He doesn't have some secret wisdom that knocks the socks off the youngsters. Hell, Robin Williams or Billy Crystal would have loved to play Alvin Straght because they could have dressed up like old people and wore lots of latex makeup. They would have Oscars dancing in their big fucking heads. Any other actor would have made Alvin Straight a maudlin, heart-of-gold prince of a guy. That's because they wouldn't have known what the fuck it's like to be old and falling apart. At 79, I'm sure Farnsworth does. He plays the role as if he's saying, "Here I am, if you don't like me you can go fuck yourself with a rake." I loved him, but I wouldn't want to split a pitcher with him.

And while the movie moves at a snail's pace, it steers clear of almost cliché and sap. Some converstaions are just that, conversations, and others are revealing. There is not a turning point where the Director David Lynch expects you to root for Alvin Straight, but you do because he's human and by the end you understand him and want what he wants. This isn't to say I'll be riding the highways on a John Deere some day, but I'll find my own thing, like setting a world record for most years working at a single gas station without a raise.

There is one corny bit with the teen runaway, but Farnsworth's encounters with other folks are surprising in ways that make you think maybe everyone isn't a complete and total asshole. I don't understand why movies never show teen runaways as slutty nymphos who can't get enough, instead of good kids who are a little confused.

David Lynch's sweetie, Mary Sweeney, was the co-author. If you know Lynch's work, you'll spend the first five minutes of the film looking for some character to find a severed ear in a field. It's got Lynch's touches all over it, too, like the fat tub of goo

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stuffing Hostess Snowballs in her piehole, or the off-kilter talk of some fringe characters. Lynch also parodies some of his own best common imagery, like the passing of highway stripes from "Wild at Heart" and "Lost Highways." Here, with Farnsworth on the mower, the highway stripes pass about as quickly as a turd too wide for your asshole. Even with its G rating, it feels like Lynch all the way.

I suppose some dumbfucks will be too bored to follow the story, but there're plenty of celluloid shitpiles starring Bruce Willis for them to watch. In other words, if you need the hero's child to be killed by terrorists in order to know who to cheer for, this flick is not the movie for you. I give it four fingers and am glad Lynch made it. I also hope he keeps making the really creepy shit.

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