The Station Agent (2003)

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Pensive and deliberately slow-paced, “The Station Agent” was a movie that definitely improved for me upon another viewing. It was the movie that brought Peter Dinklage into the spotlight before “Game of Thrones” made him a star. Dinklage is a dwarf, so it will come as no surprise to you that good roles are hard for him to come by regardless of what a good actor he may be (and is.) Compared to his more disposable roles like “Elf” and “Underdog,” “The Station Agent” stands as a surprisingly good indie film, and Dinklage, as well as his co-stars Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale, give the project all they’ve got.

Gut-wrenching ableism is alive and well in the people who surround Fin (Dinklage,) a reserved young dwarf whose equally hard to read friend and fellow train enthusiast Henry (Paul Benjamin) dies suddenly, leaving him property in a middle-of-nowhere New Jersey town. Fin, who is subject to constant prejudice from ignorant a-holes, just wants to be left alone, but bereaved mom Olivia (Clarkson) and loquacious Cuban-American hot dog vendor Joe (Cannavale) try and begin to succeed to draw him out of his shell (but only after Olivia almost carelessly runs Fin over with her car- twice(!)

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“The Station Agent” is almost as low-key as it’s protagonist and doesn’t resort to cheap sentimentality or maudlin counter-stereotyping of the disabled to make it’s point. Michelle Williams, who has always been good at straddling both indie and big-budget productions, is featured as a lonely librarian who flirts with Fin, much to his befuddlement. Fin is not a martyr or a bafflingly quirky little person with a heart of gold. Fin himself says it best “It’s funny how people see me and treat me, since I’m really just a simple, boring person.” Many people are astonishingly nasty to him, either out of cruelty or ignorance, and he’s learned to build up walls and avoid getting hurt.

“The Station Agent” is tender and funny without exploiting the foibles of it’s characters. The movie is best suited for people who have reasonable attention spans, as it is sometimes painfully slow, but the sharp and bright-eyed observations of it’s characters make it worth the watch. It’s a great showcase for the talents of both Patricia Clarkson and Peter Dinklage, BEFORE he was ‘Half-Man’ Tyrion Lannister. I also feel that the later film “An Insignificant Harvey” ripped this off to some extent. People who love subdued indie movies will like this a lot. It’s slight yet affecting, and touches the viewer’s hearts without using implausible melodrama or deceit to get it’s way.

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