The Straight Story
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Based on a true story, this touching movie recounts the journey of an elderly Iowan determined to visit his sickly brother in Wisconsin.
The man, Alvin Straight, has no driver’s license but he does have a long stubborn streak, so he decides to ride his lawn tractor the 270 miles to his brother’s house. Told in a simple, straightforward way, this story of real people experiencing real feelings will stick with you for a long time.
The Straight Story could have been titled True Grit (for the determination of it’s main character), O Brother Where Art Though (for the series of off beat characters encountered along the way) or Road Trip (well, it’s not that kind of a road trip, but the movie is more fun than you might expect).
The acting is particularly powerful, with stellar performances by Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek. And the sparse but gripping dialog is quite realistic, sometimes profound. Farnsworth was terminally ill during the filming, which contributed to the films verisimilitude. The film follows the same route that Alvin took in real life, and all the scenes were shot in chronological order, which must have helped to convey the genuineness of this unique sojourn.
Don’t be fooled, however, by the bike scene. At one point, hundreds of cyclists whiz past Alvin on his puttering lawn tractor. “What the heck, he asks?” It would be easy to assume that the cyclists were taking part in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Indeed, the Wikipedia entry for this movie identifies the cyclists as RAGBRAIers. And Alvin’s real-life lawnmower ride did take place in July, the correct month for RAGBRAI. But the cyclists depicted in the film are all wearing numbers, so either the filmmakers did not do their homework on RAGBRAI or the ride in the film must be some other organized event.