You don’t think about getting old when you’re young. You shouldn’t.
Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth)
If you knew nothing about The Straight Story except that it was a 1999 movie directed by David Lynch, of course you’d assume it was the 1999-iest, David-Lynch-iest movie ever. But spoiler alert, you’d assume wrong.
As we’ve already mentioned in Sick Desperation, and will mention at least several times more, most 1999 protagonists were 18-49 year-old white males in existential crises. Now, there’s nothing inherently absurd about 18-49 year-old white males in existential crises. Just because there’s such a thing as “white male privilege” doesn’t mean we can’t have sympathetic problems that aren’t life-or-death, so screw any casual racist-sexist snark you may have been planning to fling at us. Just because we have a few certain privileges, does that mean we’re incapable of bleeding, you casual racist-sexist pricks?
Pardon me- maybe I could use some perspective…which The Straight Story offers in shovelfuls. 1999 movies like Fight Club were all about us bitching how we didn’t have any wars to fight, and our lives were glossy IKEA catalogs, but The Straight Story is about this kind-hearted 70-something dude who did see some shit, and his life’s a 1952 John Deere catalog, and the whole time he’s telling mortality to suck his shriveled old sack.
And at first, when you see it’s directed by David Lynch, you start feeling uneasy. There’s the good-old Americana with the slightly-eerie Angelo Badalamenti score, and you’re just waiting for the horrific surrealism to kick in. But nothing really horrific ever happens, and on a scale of 1-10, the surrealism barely hits 2.5. In a way, The Straight Story is only David Lynch-ian if you’re already familiar with David Lynch and know little else about the movie itself. In that case, it’s unsettling and, ultimately, a big fat subversive mindfuck.
Which, on second thought, might make The Straight Story the David-Lynchiest, 1999-iest movie ever.