The Score: 10 out of 10
David Lynch made a Disney movie. We will give you a few moments to let that sentence sink in.
"This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality. You're on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable. Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you're entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. Next stop, the twilight zone."–Rod Serling clearly anticipating the production of The Straight Story (1999) forty years before the film's release.
David Lynch's Goofy Movie Parody
Technically speaking, David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) was produced independently and then sold to the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group for distribution after a successful screening at Cannes. But however you word it, David Lynch made a "G" rated Disney film. It happened. And furthermore, rather than the resulting film being an aberrant clash of style, it works perfectly. The film satisfies the demands of a family film, yet retains enough Lynchian charms to prove the origin of its authorship. The Straight Story is a miraculous achievement in Lynch's career.
The Straight Story Trailer
Disney (and its recently developed independent arm Pixar) make films enjoyable for people of all age groups and demographics. When families gather together to watch a movie, Disney is a name people have learned to trust with their time and money. Disney has consistently delivered family-friendly entertainment for the better part of a century, and it excels in this lucrative niche to the tune of earning billions of dollars per year. So it is no small event when President Paul Schneider of Walt Disney Motion Picture Group says: "[The Straight Story is] a beautiful movie about values, forgiveness and healing, and celebrates America. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a Walt Disney film."
The Straight Story (1999) recounts the true story of an elderly man whose health, eyesight, and finances limit his ability to visit a recently stricken estranged brother living in a neighboring state. Alvin Straight, decides to drive his lawnmower on a touching odyssey across part of America's heartland to make peace with his brother in person. This film is a pleasant change of pace from Lynch's horror-centric work, yet his unmistakable style still shines through every beautiful frame. The Elephant Man (1980) and The Straight Story (1999) are often mentioned together in the same breath when discussing Lynch's most mainstream, audience-friendly work.
David Lynch is noted for his psychologically complex films that explore the realities and feelings of characters who confront human darkness and are frequently driven insane in the process. Since The Straight Story (1999) stands in bright contrast to his normal paradigm, David Lynch offers an explanation of why this story appealed to him when he explained: "Tenderness can be just as abstract as insanity."David Lynch Explains Why He Made It
|Sir Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Treves in The Elephant Man (1980)|
|Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight in The Straight Story (1999)|
|David Lynch and Mary Sweeney|
|Richard Farnsworth and Long-Time Lynch Friend and Supporter Sissy Spacek|
Play Father and Daughter in the Roles of Alvin and Rose Straight
Alvin is an old guy, but he's a total rebel—he's like James Dean, except he's old. He's also like a million other old guys. The body gets old, but inside we feel ageless, because the 'self' we talk to doesn't have an age."
I was pretty much retired on my ranch in New Mexico when David Lynch called me about playing Alvin Straight. I told him, 'No, I'm slowing down and I've got a bad hip and walk with a cane.' But Lynch answered: 'That's great. Alvin Straight used two canes. You'll be perfect.'" And David Lynch later remarked: "Richard was born to play this role. He's got a quality that's so strong, and he makes every word and glance seem real. He has innocence, and that is a gift."
It's a very slow road movie." David Lynch made one other road movie called Wild at Heart (1990), which could not be more different from The Straight Story (1999) in terms of plot, yet share a relatively similar narrative structure that relied heavily on Nicholas Cage's central performance, too.
We had to shoot in sequence, so we started where Alvin had lived, in Laurens, Iowa, on flat terrain and in hot summer weather. As we progressed east, the weather started changing, and we had to work fast because that neck of the woods gets bitter cold early in the fall, and nearly every scene is outdoors."
The Straight Story Deer Scene
I think you've got to dig deep to do what Alvin did. He had to be stubborn, had to get over a lot of obstacles to prove to his brother he cared for him."
As we approach the end of this series of article, we look back on David Lynch's decades of artistic achievements with admiration. Throughout his career, Lynch boldly cleared a new path in the film industry while simultaneously developing his beautifully unique style, ever refining his craft. And now for the first time in Lynch's career, The Straight Story (1999) earned him universal rather than mixed critical acclaim.
Next week we will discuss the second film in David Lynch's unofficial identity confusion trilogy, and the second-to-last feature film released as of this date: Mulholland Dr. (2001). While personal tastes vary from person to person about which Lynch films are most enjoyable to watch, a near consensus of critics and fans declare Mulholland Dr. as the culminating film of Lynch's career and his masterpiece. And in a career filled with cinematic masterpieces, that is saying something.
David Lynch Interview and Roundtable Review
Mulholland Dr. Official Trailer
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