MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: In ‘The Station Agent’ an unlikely friendship ultimately gives way to happiness

I’m going to come clean here, folks. This is the second review I’ve written this week. The first was on “The Double,” which I saw last Saturday and absolutely loved. Unfortunately, fellow reviewer Maxwell Shukuya had already seen it a month earlier and written a review. What’s worse is that his review was better.

So here I am on posting day-eve, writing a review on something completely different.

“The Station Agent” is a quirky little dramedy set in rural New Jersey in 2003. It isn’t depressing by any stretch of the imagination, save for the realization that the year 2003 is a long time ago.

It may seem weird for a 17-year-old to be nostalgic, but don’t you remember the time when any year was a substitute for the present when it was appended to the numerals “200”?

“The Station Agent” stars Peter Dinklage as Finbar McBride, a train geek who inherits an old train station in rural Newfoundland, New Jersey, after his recently deceased friend bequeaths it to him.

Given the difficulties inherent in being a man of Fin’s small stature, it is unsurprising that he packs up and heads for the hills to find some peace and quiet.

After all, Fin, already a lonely and silent man, just lost his best friend. He hasn’t much else to lose.

In terms of quietness, he finds very little, mostly due to the presence of two new people in his life. As for peace, however, Fin finds it in abundance, mostly due to those same people.

The first of these is Joe (Bobby Cannavale), who’s running his dad’s food truck outside of Fin’s new digs. Joe’s one of those people who will force their way into your life by any means necessary. He will insert himself into your plans and invite you to come hang out every day until he gets his way.

While obviously not Fin’s first choice for a best friend, Joe and his relentless positivity break through Fin’s tough exterior and slowly change the relationship to become as much of a “bro-ship,” to use the modern vernacular, as a man like Fin can ever hope to have.

The second is Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), an artist who, like Fin, wants to find some peace and quiet to help her relax after losing her son two years before. She doesn’t make the greatest of impressions, as she narrowly avoids flattening Fin while he walks home from the grocery store.

“The Station Agent” is a movie about connections – namely, the connections that lonely people crave.

Apart, they’re just a lonely train nerd, a depressed artist and a guy who has nothing better to do than to stand around being bored at his father’s food truck. But together they form an unlikely friendship that ultimately helps them find happiness.

Well, maybe not Joe. He was pretty happy to begin with.

An interesting part of watching “The Station Agent” in 2015 is seeing Peter Dinklage in a leading role before he was, well, our Peter Dinklage. There was, after all, a time when Dinklage wasn’t famous the world over for being everyone’s favorite Lannister. Rather, he had been (and continued to be long after “The Station Agent”) “that one dwarf that’s in the movies all the time.”

Or is it “little people” now? I can never keep track of this stuff…

If “The Station Agent” proves one thing, it’s that Peter Dinklage had at least most of the acting chops we knew he had all the way back in 2003. Granted, his part demands less of him than delivering a scathing speech to the nobility of King’s Landing, but his performance is very effective regardless of that fact.

His supporting cast performs well too. Cannavale manages the difficult task of being a macho New Jersey man while simultaneously maintaining the face of a puppy who’s desperate for attention.

Much like Cannavale, Clarkson does a good job. She’s not fantastic, but she delivers a solid performance. Most of all she’s believable, true to the mumblecore tradition.

It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly makes “The Station Agent” such a good movie. Perhaps it is best described as “pleasant,” rather than just good. It is a film that reminds one of friends—both the experience of making  them and the lasting bonds and experiences that come of that connection.

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