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Straight Story

A movie directed by David Lynch

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The Straight Story

  • Dec 1, 2002
  • by
Pros: great story and beautiful scenery

Cons: none

The Bottom Line: You cannot put a limit on family

Alvin Straight 1921-1996

I certainly have encountered mixed reviews about this movie, anywhere from fantastic to total boredom. But much like Alvin Straight, I found this movie traveled down the middle road. I started watching movies long before CGI and F/X became cause celeb, so I’ve learned to enjoy them for the pure story alone. I don’t need bombs or aliens to make things enjoyable, sometimes just a plain old lawnmower will suffice.

Now this is the real straight story
Alvin Straight had been estranged from his brother Lyle for over ten years. When he receives a phone call that Lyle had a stroke, he decides to go visit. Now good old Alvin is 73 years old, half-blind, bad hips, doesn’t drive and doesn’t trust public transportation. Although he is surrounded by life long friends in his sleepy Iowa town, he elects to devise his own mode of transportation to make the 250 mile trek to his brothers side. None other than his trusty riding lawnmower.

His first attempt goes south, as the old beat up machine just couldn’t hack the journey, pulling a fully loaded trailer behind it. Yet this doesn’t deter Alvin, he buys a ‘new’ 1966 John Deere and starts out once again. His friends shake their heads at his folly. His daughter, Rose, fears for his safety.

Alvin moves peacefully down the road making many new acquaintances along the way. Much was learned from Alvin by those that happened across his path, there is a lot of wisdom in a determined 73 year old man. Indeed, he finally reaches his goal, his brothers broken down farm, and once again shares the night sky at his side, as they did in youth.

Truth is stranger than fiction
Poetic justice was taken in making this movie. The real Alvin Straight did make this journey in the fall of 1994, aboard his riding lawn mower. His brothers name was Henry, not Lyle [I don’t understand that change at all] and they had been estranged for years. His trip took over 6 weeks, creeping along at 5 mph and pulling a homemade 10’ trailer behind him. Alvin Straight died in 1996 of a heart ailment and his funeral procession was accompanied by a lawnmower, similar to the one used on his trip. Quite the eclectic character, Alvin.

This movie was directed by David Lynch and written by John Roach & Mary Sweeney. The two major stars featured were Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight [bearing a remarkable likeness to the real Alvin] and Sissy Spacek as his daughter Rose. Henry Dean Stanton played the final scenes as the brother Lyle, actually about 10 minutes airtime total.

Acting & directing
The film covered the same route taken by Straight in 1996, traveling some beautiful Iowa countryside. This is a Disney release, a perfectly clean movie made for family viewing. There are a lot of good values sprinkled throughout the movie stemming from Straight’s country wisdom.

Released in 1999, this was the last movie for Farnsworth who was diagnosed with cancer and took his own life in 2000. He started his career as a stuntman in the early 30’s, co-founding the Stuntmen Association in 1961, and moving to full acting after 40 years in stunts. Farnsworth was a clean living family man, having little use of abusive language. His peaceful demeanor transfers directly into this movie as I am sure he realized this was probably his own last ride into the sunset.

I had the worst time with Spacek, not quite understanding her ‘affliction’ in the movie. Partially explained by Straight over a fireside talk with a runaway girl, we learn she is kinda slow. I don’t know if her speech impediment was supposed to be stuttering because, if so, it was a horrible attempt. If she was supposed to be mildly handicapped, I couldn’t relate to the speech problem. It was a terrible portrayal by Spacek who can offer so much more to a role.

Like I said, Henry Dean Stanton had such a small part that little can be said about his performance. He barely spoke a dozen words.

The production itself was wonderfully done although I am sure some considered it slow. It was supposed to be slow. This was more than just miles traveling by Straight, it was also his life unfolding before you. I highly enjoyed this movie and apparently I was not alone. The Straight Story was nominated for 24 awards and won 10 other awards covering everything from Best Picture to Best Actor/Actress. This was from awards from around the world, not just limited to the USA.

You can do yourself and your family a favor and watch this movie together. This is a movie that lets you know that family values are not just words but it defines the value of a family.

For a short write-up about Alvin Straight, please see:




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More Straight Story reviews
review by . May 29, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: David Lynch Film     Cons: Unbelievably Trite     David Lynch is known for weirdness but this was weird times 2. I have seen this movie described as a man on a mission movie but that's stretching it a little. Overall, I thought it was trite and kind of stupid.      Basically the story of a old man in failing health who lives with his "slow" daughter. It's hokey in the fact that although the man is really old, his few words …
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About this movie


David Lynch's first foray into the land of Disney and G-ratings is a surprisingly gentle, hopeful, and irony-free crowd pleaser. The film tells the true story of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), a 73-year-old man who journeys from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin, on a John Deere lawn mower in order to visit his dying older brother, Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton). The estranged brothers haven't spoken in years because of their stubborn pride, but Lyle's recent stroke convinces Alvin that now is the time to make amends. Along the way he meets a host of interesting characters--including a pregnant runaway teenager, a sad World War II veteran, and a sympathetic priest--affecting them deeply with his unflinching spirit and belief in the power of familial love. As Straight, Farnsworth slips into the role he was born to play with an effortless grace. Sissy Spacek gives a heartbreaking turn as his afflicted daughter, Rose, who looks after her father and mourns for her children, who were cruelly taken away f...
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Director: David Lynch
Release Date: 1999
MPAA Rating: G
DVD Release Date: Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 07, 2000)
Runtime: 1hr 51min
First to Review

"Bizarre yet stupid"
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