So I caught The Station Agent the other night and, while it’s not the type of film that’ll set the world on fire, it is an eminently enjoyable rumination on loneliness, friendship, and trains. (As such, it was also a movie worth seeing at the Angelika, since for once the omnipresent subway sounds below the theater added to the film experience.)
The Station Agent works best when it lets its three main characters — a distant (and distinctly short) train-enthusiast (Peter Dinklage), a divorced artist (Patricia Clarkson), and a gregarious food-vendor (the scene-stealing Bobby Cannavale) — hang out and get to relish each other’s company despite themselves. In these scenes, the movie has a nice, unforced air and a great sense of wit about it.
The train derails in the second half, however, when Agent feels the need to introduce dramatic tension by foisting “real life problems” on this funny trio…almost all of which come across as forced. (This is also the point in the film when the don’t-pick-on-little-persons consciousness-raising comes to the fore and, well, frankly I think I’m part of the problem. There’s a key scene where Dinklage ties one on at a local bar, jumps onto the counter, and angrily denounces the staring eyes all about him, and all I could think was “Wow, this is just like Bree…I wonder if Dinklage should’ve played Frodo.”) At any rate, despite the stock emotional issues wedged into the second act, the film ends well, returning to the low-key, believable, and funny tone of friendship that dictated the first hour, and all in all, The Station Agent makes for a good time at the movies. If nothing else, it’s worth catching on The Sundance Channel in a few months.