Writing up an article on The Straight Story for Guts and Grog is an interesting idea, but I’m totally up for it. The thing about this film, while being a David Lynch film is that it really is about as pure and wholesome as it gets while still maintaining a complete and utter dedication to preserving reality. If you haven’t seen it, you might be thinking, “this can’t be a David Lynch film”. Rest assured, in spite of the clear basis of reality, this is absolutely a David Lynch film. He uses his usual trademarks all over this film and he uses them beautifully.
The Straight Story is about a man, Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), whose brother suffers a stroke and despite Alvin and his brother Lyle having not spoken for many years, he decides he needs to pay his brother a visit. The catch is that Alvin lives in rural western Iowa, and his brother in Wisconsin. The second catch is that Alvin is too old and fragile to drive and the only person he is close enough with to take him is his mentally handicapped daughter (brilliantly played by Sissy Spacek), who naturally cannot do it for him. What does Alvin do? He sets out on the journey on his old ass riding lawn mower, rigged up with a trailer.
The impressive thing about The Straight Story is in its all-encompassing beauty. There really is nothing about this movie that isn’t absolutely beautiful. The story itself is so touching that knowing that this is going on The Grog, feels incredible awkward to say. The fact is there… this story is fucking touching. In fact it is so touching, I don’t even want to try to be funny and clever. It’s also beautifully shot. David Lynch makes Iowa look amazing, he makes the shitty town of Laurens, Iowa look amazing and he makes riding a lawn mower across a state look like a beautiful thing that we should all want to do. Hell, despite the truths spoken by Alvin during the film about growing old, Lynch even makes becoming old look amazing. Lastly, the score is a thing of beauty. Once again, Lynch collaborates with Angelo Badalamenti, who scored Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Wild at Heart for an amazing and beautiful score that tells the story all in itself. The music is dark, haunting, beautiful and culturally appropriate for the story and its location.
The fact that David Lynch teamed up with Disney for this film floors me to this day, 15 years later, but the fact remains, this is how it should be done. This is how a great family film should look, sound and this is what it should teach us all. With all the terrible shit that we do in our lives, there comes a point that we have that realization of what is important, and how we fix all the fuck ups we’ve made. Alvin’s journey is a real story about a real man who had that realization and did something about it. It’s so simple, but so powerful, and told so beautifully by Lynch, and acted beautifully by Farnsworth and Spacek. The mood is there, the visuals are there, everything is there. I cannot think of a single movie ever made that better shows that a family film can be an amazing work of art. If you haven’t seen The Straight Story, there are only a handful of films I could give a higher recommendation for, none of which I’d show to my kids. When you watch it, revel in all of it, the camera work, the setting, the acting, the characters, the music and most of all, the story. Just because it isn’t filled with surrealism, murder, monsters, mystery or other underworldly things does not mean this film isn’t among the best ever made. Enjoy the peace, the love and the art of The Straight Story.
Mortician Matt is a musician, and family man, who knows more about wrestling, than a grown man should. He has contributed to 411Mania, and spends lots of time hiking and shit. His career involves picking up dead bodies that may or may not have "fallen" on their own.