Months ago, in the midst of awards season, Peter Dinklage and the cast of The Station Agent turned heads as they nabbed two Screen Actor’s Guild nominations for the Best Actor and Best Performance by an Ensemble. Now, after having the opportunity to see this film, I can understand why actors recognized the acting. With brilliant performances, a great story, and a subtle tone The Station Agent is easily on my Top Ten of 2003.
Little People are typically subjected to ridicule and typecasting in show business. They are usually either mythical characters/creatures or subject to a tossing in comedies. The Station Agent breaks down those barriers by actually having a little person as the main character, and having a compelling story that doesn’t include some kind of wizardry.
Fin McBride (Dinklage) is a simple man of few words who works in a Model Train Shoppe. He loves trains. But after the death of the Shoppe owner (Paul Benjamin), and his friend, Fin is bequeathed some property: an old train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey. Fin moves into the depot and has his sites set on solitude in the middle of nowhere, but as it turns out his abandoned little train station appears to have more hustle and bustle then Fin would’ve liked. Amongst the folks that come across the depot are Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a Cuban vendor who operates out of a snack truck and can’t seem to stay quiet, and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a troubled artist with a lot of issues on her mind. After a while Fin starts to warm up to the two and a strong friendship builds between three people who normally wouldn’t speak to one another. As much as Fin wants remain secluded from people, everyone who comes in contact with him seems to warm up to him in some way. Whether it’s Cleo (Raven Goodwin) the curious schoolgirl, or Emily (Michelle Williams) the cute librarian, all of their lives are touched by this simple little man.
Dinklage oozes with charisma. He has a commanding presence and his subtleties as an actor are really great. Honestly, most likely he could relate to a majority of Fin’s little nuances, which is what sells his performance. The chemistry between him, Cannavale, and Clarkson is what really moves this movie forward. Cannavale is a delight. After what can be construed as a confrontation with Fin, Joe disappears from the movie for twelve minutes. You can feel something is missing when he’s not there, and when the two reconcile, there’s no “I’m Sorry” kiss and make up scene. There's just a car ride of silence - understood silence, which is one of the most realistic and most treasured little moments about this film.
The Station Agent is one of those indie gems that slip through cracks and won’t likely see the light of day to the average person, and that's a shame. I strongly recommend checking this film out. If you’ve ever had a really good friend of either sex, you'll understand how this flick shows how the bonds of friendship truly know no bounds. It is color blind, gender blind, and one doesn’t need to be a specific height in order to ride it.
The DVD release of The Station Agent is pretty skimpy on the extras, but what is there isn’t that bad.
There is no theatrical trailer, at least not for this movie, but there are plenty of “Sneak Peeks” and a nice little commercial that glorifies Miramax. There aren’t many deleted scenes and you can see why the ones included were cut out. The pacing of the film was perfect; to add more little moments here and there wouldn’t have been necessary. The commentary included with the scenes alludes to why they were cut. Though Peter Dinklage did speak out to director Thomas McCarthy about cutting out a little kiss from Michelle Williams.
Feature commentaries are typically a toss up - they can be one solitary person boring you to tears or they can be groups yucking it up making one feel like part of the gang. Luckily the commentary here fits into the latter group. With Commentary from director Thomas McCarthy and cast members Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, and Bobby Cannavale, there isn’t one moment that you don’t feel entertained. Made up of a collaboration of anecdotes and actual informative things about shooting this indie, The Station Agent commentary does its job the way a DVD commentary should.
But... a group commentary and deleted scenes - that’s it. There could have been more, but then again every DVD could always have more. But with the fun commentary and a great movie, I’ll make an exception in this case. Sometimes less...is more.