Even in today’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy world, it’s difficult for a gay character on television or film to be defined by anything besides their sexuality. There aren’t any gay men in Thomas McCarthy’s lovely Sundance winner The Station Agent, but the film’s lead character is a different kind of social outcast whose life is often the object of spectacle. Finbar McBride (Peter Kinklage) is a lonely dwarf who inherits a shoddy piece of land somewhere in Bumblefuck, New Jersey, after his friend dies. It’s there that he meets a series of a quirky locals: a perpetually frazzled artist, Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), still suffering from the death of her son two years earlier; a Cuban goofball (Joe Oramas) who sells café con leche from inside a small hot-dog stand; a horny librarian (Michelle Williams); and a little girl (Lovely and Amazing’s Raven Goodwin) who shares his fondness for trains. McCarthy seemingly set out to make a film about a dwarf that wasn’t necessarily about dwarf prejudice. The joy of The Station Agent is how McCarthy evokes the loneliness of Finbar’s life using simple stretches of silence and a series of long shots that call attention to the man’s small stature. If it appears as if the director is objectifying Finbar by situating him repeatedly in such a facile fashion before grotesque, broke-down train cars and buildings, he more or less does the same with the equally lonely artist played by Clarkson. Life in Jersey for Fibar begins with a hysterical bang when Olivia nearly runs him over twice in one day, and in the dwarf’s relationship to the artist, McCarthy subtly evokes the complex attraction between an older woman who may or may not be falling for a small person because she reminds him of her dead son. It takes a lot of work for Olivia and the Cuban Bobby to get Finbar to come out of his shell, but when they do, everyone begins to “walk the right of way” for the rest of the film.
- Miramax Films
- 89 min
- Thomas McCarthy
- Thomas McCarthy
- Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Raven Goodwin, Paul Benjamin, Michelle Williams, Joe Lo Truglio, Jayce Bartok
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: