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The Station Agent Review

By Joe Lozito

Training Days


Peter Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a train enthusiast who, due to his dwarfism, would rather be left alone. When Fin's best friend dies and leaves him the key to an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey, Fin considers this the perfect opportunity to get away from it all. No sooner does he settle in than Olivia, a local artist and fellow recluse played with easy sexuality by Patricia Clarkson, nearly runs Fin down in her Jeep. Also to Fin's dismay, a chatty hot dog vendor (a charmingly greasy Bobby Cannavale) sets up shop scant yards away from the depot and seems hell-bent on getting Fin out of his shell. After a rocky start, the three form an odd bond.

That's pretty much the set up of "The Station Agent", Thomas McCarthy's writing/directing debut. It doesn't sound like much, but the film is a solid effort, low on plot and high on character development, thanks largely to its small but superb cast. Mr. Cannavale has the unenviable task of playing a role that is, by definition, annoying and he deftly walks the line between character and caricature. The wonderful Raven Goodwin shows up briefly as a local schoolgirl who takes a shine to Fin. And Ms. Clarkson paints a subtly beautiful portrait of a woman trapped inside her own feeling loss.

But Mr. Dinklage is the revelation here. It's unfortunate that an actor of his stature is typically get relegated to films with "little" or "dwarf" somewhere in the description. Here, Mr. Dinklage, while playing the part of a depressed introvert, manages to grab hold of the screen with both hands. He is in nearly every frame of the film and he makes every moment interesting. This is a fine performance thanks both to the actor and the sparsely written script.

For a film about a train lover, "The Station Agent" doesn't really go anywhere; its characters grow without much movement. There are no huge revelations except that these characters, who want nothing more than to be left alone, end up connecting with each other almost in spite of themselves. Mr. McCarthy understands how that in and of itself can be revelation enough.

What did you think?

Movie title The Station Agent
Release year 2003
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Actor turned writer-director Thomas McCarthy crafts a quietly moving tale of four outcasts in rural New Jersey.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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