Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
The Station AgentStudio:MIRAMAX Year:2003RunTime:89 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OAR Audio:DD 5.1 English, FrenchSubtitles:Spanish, FrenchSpecialFeatures:Feature commentary, Deleted ScenesReleaseDate:Available
The Station Agent is a very special movie. A coworker of mine is friends with the lead actor, Peter Dinklage, and so I learned about this film well before it arrived in the theaters. A group of us from work went to see it opening week, and indeed this film easily lived up to everyone's expectations. I had hoped (through my friend) that I might get a chance to get with Peter and do some Q/A interview with him to include here, but alas I haven't been able to connect with him. If that happens at a future date, I'll certainly post back an update here.
The story makes use of the day-to-day struggles of "little person" Fin McBride. Most everyone has their own unique struggles that they have to deal with at some point in their life, but it can become more challenging when the issue also affects how others perceive us, especially when matters of appearance attract unwelcome attention that cannot be avoided. A good friend of mine is a little person who is also wheel-chair bound with her O.I. (ostiogenesis imperfecta) condition, and I always find it curious how in our own interaction everything is "normal", but whenever we go out in public together...to dinner or to a movie...inevitably people stare and curious children find themselves captivated and either seem intimidated or step forward and boldly make unanticipated (and often unwelcome) comments. Her candor is always friendly and she has a list of packaged responses she can deliver without having take a step out of the moment in which she is otherwise engaged. But it occurred to me how going out in public for her always entails some element of being on-display...she can never choose to just blend in and become "one of the crowd" like most of us take for granted. Because of those experiences, I was very "tuned in" to Fin's situation in this film. Watching the Station Agent you'll definitely get a sense of Fin's struggles, if not feel them intensely.
The Station Agent chronicles a journey in the life of Fin McBride (Dinklage) through events that take his simple but uninspiring world and bring him to a new home, new friends, and a new understanding of himself and his relationship with those around him. Actually, this film is a bit unusual in that while it starts out with a single character -- Dinklage -- being the protagonist, as the film unfolds two other characters are incorporated into the story's focus and we end up watching a movie that is really equally about the hearts and lives of three individuals, all very different from one another, and yet somehow drawn together by life into a bond of friendship that needs no explanation or defense. In the end, rather than this movie being about "Fin's problems", it ends up making his issues moot as the struggles that he endures mesh and meld with the struggles of those around him; this group of friends share their burdens of sorrow and distrust of intimacy and learn to love and support each other. To me, this movie is about the kind of friendship that heals, and often hurts while it does, and creates an experience of belonging that goes deeper than words can express. The final scenes of this film are remarkably free from dialogue, and speak to the sublime experience of unity through friendship and love.
The Station Agent is a film with which many of you may not be familiar. If my exposition has tempted your interest in the slightest: see this movie.
Hmmm. I'd venture to say that the video is "ok" on a large-scale screen and "good" on a small-scale display. From @1.5-1.7 screen widths viewing distance on my 100" screen, the projected image looks slightly filtered and lacking in fine detail with occasional shimmer...the kinds of artifacts often seen from a bit too much DNR (actually, IMO *any* DNR is too much DNR). However, it's not egregiously bad and one can enjoy the movie without feeling distracted...it's just that having seen the projected print (which I watched with an eye to review the eventual DVD) I feel a *tad* disappointed. There is also some minor ringing (telephone wires are the easy place to spot them) on occasion which tells me that the remaining HF has been electronically boosted to "sharpen" what's left, and this tends to take what would have been fine-level film-grain and make it appear more noisy (Master and Commander on DVD shows this same problem, and if you compare to the HD version on D-VHS you'll find that much of that "grain" you see on the DVD is not in the original high-resolution image...it's noise that's generated by HF boosting that exaggerates fine-grain structure that would appear much smoother and more natural in its un-marred state). To be sure, the film print in the theater had visible film-grain, but the DVD seems to impart a slightly more noisy character to it. The image isn't bad, it's just doesn't have that film-like transparency that better-mastered/authored DVDs have. Miramax has been a mixed bag these days with these DVD transfers and this one is actually above average and clearly (pun intended) better than English Patient and (gasp) Cold Mountain. But nevertheless let's hope for more film-like consistency in the future for all their titles...regardless of the political, technical, or personel issues behind these discprencies...back to the review...
Color, contrast, and black level look exactly as they did in the theater. Colors appear slightly muted for the most part and while contrast and shadow detail are strong, black levels don't seem inky-black. This is the appearance of the film itself so the DVD is doing fine. The film has a very warm tone that is communicated very nicely on this DVD. When Fin finally switches out of his white shirt into his yellow shirt the impact is vivid. The image was soft-focus to begin with in the theater, so aside from a slight loss of detail from DNR or HF filtering, the general soft-focus presentation is consistent with how this movie appeared on the big screen.
The 1.85:1 image is also properly letterboxed in the 1.78:1 (16x9) frame preserving the film's precise theatrical aspect ratio. Most 16x9 display viewers will never notice these small letterboxing bars due to overscan, but viewers with finely calibrated projectors or plasma/LCD direct-views may notice them which is why I make mention.
All in all, the image is quite watch able within a 1.75 viewing width distance and I'm sure those of you who view the image on smaller displays (typically at 2 screen widths distance or more) will find the image satisfyingly detailed and clear.
Picture: 3.5/ 5
A generally front-heavy mix with the occasional surround involvement, the sound of the Station Agent is exactly what would seem appropriate for this dialog and image-driven film. Vocals are clear and presented naturally without distortion and the score and effects (like scenes with the train) sound full-bodied. While I would have enjoyed a more active sound field in terms of ambience and soundstaging (ala Holes, which is also a non-action film yet really takes advantage of the 5.1 palette just the same), keep your expectations in check with the subject matter and you'll be well pleased.
Sound: 3.5/ 5
Special features are sparse, but those included are of high-quality and I'd be recommending this film even without them.
[*]Feature Commentary: Director Tom McCarthy and actors Peter Kinklage, Patricia Clarkson, and Bobby Cannavale conspire to deliver a conversational screen-specific commentary that is enjoyable. None of the participants delve too deeply into esoteric movie-making secrets, and the tone is generally light. However, there are tidbits of movie-making trivia that add insights and interest to one's understanding of the film and I never found myself tire of listening. The thing that most impressed me (like the commentary with Cop Land) was the friendly spirit of comradery between the participants...the way that the conversation flows naturally between them and the jovial spirit of fun they seem to have together...teasing and laughing and bringing in a strong personal tone. The commentary succeeds on those points without becoming just a "memory fest"; a nice blend of fraternal fun with real movie-making moments to carry it along.
[*]Deleted Scenes: There are five deleted scenes that can be watched with or without commentary. Several of them deal in the early part of the film prior to Fin's journey and I can see how the film flowed more deliberately without them. One scene (the morning after) I felt would have been nicer to have been left in place. Nice to see these scenes and I enjoyed hearing the same group (from the theatrical feature commentary) discuss these scenes together.
The Station Agent is a special film. If you enjoy movies that really delve into interpersonal relationships (Life as a House, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Big Chill, You Can Count On Me, etc.) then consider yourself a prime candidate for this film. The Station Agent distinguishes itself a bit by its calm - almost serene - sense of pacing, allowing the viewer to read-between-the-lines and watch a movie that desires to not make too many ripples in the water, preferring instead to allow the integrity of human experiences and relationships to speak for itself. Video will appear more than satisfactory to most small-to-mid-sized screen viewers and will still hold up acceptably (with a few minor quibbles) for large-scale viewers. Audio does the job without drawing attention to itself, and the extras, while slim, are of good quality and add value the experience of watching this film.
I love this movie and I hope that you do too.