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The Straight Story

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With his sweet, lyrical masterpiece The Straight Story, David Lynch frees himself from the heavy irony and noir affectations of his last few films, discovering the pure, mythical slice of Americana previously confined to Agent Cooper's coffee and donuts in Twin Peaks. His surprising deliverance comes in the form of an unusual and moving true story that appeals to his offbeat sensibility, yet invites more emotional directness and clarity than anything he's done before. In a warm and unassuming turn, Richard Farnsworth stars as Alvin Straight, a 73-year-old widower who journeys from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin, to make amends with his estranged brother after the latter suffers a stroke. Too vision-impaired to drive a car, Alvin stocks up on cigars and Braunschweiger, climbs atop a 1966 John Deere lawnmower, and bridges the distance at 10 mph. His stretch of highway is far more hospitable than the dreary freakshow that populated Wild At Heart, but the conviction behind Lynch's unexpected ode to the Heartland is no less persuasive. Though a radical departure in his career, not a minute of The Straight Story could be mistaken for another director's work. Scenes that might have been too conventional in other hands are graced by hallmark Lynchian touches, such as a tender moment under the eerie whir of a silo elevator or a hilariously discordant exchange between Farnsworth and an old hardware clerk reluctant to part with his "grabber." Assured in every detail, from Freddie Francis' shimmering widescreen vistas to Angelo Badalamenti's gentle acoustic score, The Straight Story rings with a simple poetry that's bracing and true.