‘Station Agent’ takes its time studying human connections | AspenTimes.com

‘Station Agent’ takes its time studying human connections

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

When Tom McCarthy and Peter Dinklage, the writer-director and star, respectively, of “The Station Agent,” appeared in September at an Aspen Filmfest screening of the film, they expressed concern over how audiences would receive McCarthy’s debut.

Judging from description alone, “The Station Agent” could be seen as a hard sell: three ill-matched outsiders discover one another at an abandoned, rural New Jersey rail depot. None of the three is immediately likable. One is a quiet ” make that silent ” type, seeking solitude; one is a grieving divorcee; the last is a guy who won’t shut up. And the central character, Dinklage’s Fin McBride, is a dwarf.

But McCarthy and Dinklage need not have worried. The film, made for under $2 million according to McCarthy, has earned nearly $4.5 million, and that on a relatively small number of screens. At Aspen Filmfest, “The Station Agent” earned the Audience Favorite Feature Award.

Moreover, it is hard to imagine a film that is more easy to like than “The Station Agent.” Despite the oddities of its setting and characters, “The Station Agent” is marked by good humor and a complete affection for its subjects.

At the film’s beginning, the quiet, serious Fin loses his only friend, and the only other thing he cares about, his job at a model railroad shop. He has gained, as a consolation, ownership of a desolate train station. Fin retreats there, looking forward to the solitude.

No such luck. Parked daily at the depot is a food truck, manned by its motor-mouthed operator Joe (Bobby Cannavale). Between tending to his ailing father and running pop’s quiet business in rural New Jersey, Joe, a city dweller, is going stir crazy. Fin’s appearance at the station is a godsend to Joe. Fin takes longer to warm to Joe’s incessant talking, but the process makes for some funny moments.

Joe’s only regular customer is Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), an emotionally damaged artist. Fin doesn’t care for Olivia’s wounded state, just as he doesn’t appreciate Joe’s efforts at friendship.

Fin discovers ” mostly by force ” the need for human connection. It’s hardly revelatory, but McCarthy doesn’t bang us over the head with the seriousness of the message. And Dinklage’s portrayal of Fin makes the character’s transformation affecting and believable.

– Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings program presents “The Station Agent” at 5:30 p.m.

Academy Screenings conclude Friday with “Sylvia” at 5:30 p.m. and “The Cooler” at 8:15 p.m.

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com]

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