The Station Agent: Revisited

Written by Tracy

People would know Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones. It’s easily his most recognizable role (along with Elf). To me, Peter Dinklage will be known as Fin (Finbar McBride) in The Station Agent.

The Station Agent is the story of Fin, who saw his boss, Henry, passed away and thus losing his job as a toy train maker. Fin inherited Henry’s estate, which was a train depot in rural New Jersey. When he gets to the depot, he meets a bunch of strangers:

  • Joe, a Cuban who operates a food truck, played by Boardwalk Empire and Cupid‘s Bobby Cannavale.
  • Olivia, an artist who is getting through a divorce and the death of her son, played by Patricia Clarkson (2003 was a big year for her from The Station Agent to her Oscar nominated role in Pieces of April).
  • Cleo, a kid who is around the depot a lot, played by Good Luck Charlie‘s Raven Goodwin.
  • Emily, a librarian who has trouble with her own relationship, played by Michelle Williams.

In the first half of the movie, Fin was the loner, who really didn’t want to be bothered or get help. People teased him of his dwarfism. Then he encounters Joe, who has his food stand next to the depot. He then encounters Olivia, who almost ran him over twice. Olivia and Joe tried to strike up a conversation and friendship with Fin.

In the second half of the movie, Fin let his guard down and allowed Joe and Olivia (and to some extent, Emily) into their lives. However, while Fin was connecting with the two, Olivia is dealing with her ex-husband and losing her son, and Joe is dealing with his ailing father, thus the relationship was going further apart and Fin reverted back to his loner status. It was when Fin passed out on the train tracks and almost got killed that he had a realization. Luckily, the only damage done was his pocket watch, which basically freed him up to help out Olivia and her issues, call up Joe, and came to Cleo’s school to discuss trains.

What’s unique about The Station Agent was the leading star has dwarfism, compared to the “normal” adults and children. What made it effective was the secondary characters caring about Fin and you don’t feel the relationships were forced upon. It was also nice that Tom McCarthy, writer and director of The Station Agent, didn’t take the love scene route. The movie was good dealing with loneliness and how they react in those situations.

What made the movie from good to great was Bobby Cannavale’s performance as Joe. Peter Dinklage was great as Fin, playing the quiet leading man (basically playing the point guard). Patricia Clarkson was very good as Olivia who, you could argue, had deeper problems than Fin with her divorce and losing her son. The movie would of been good if they only had Fin and Olivia.

It was Joe who made the movie refreshing. Joe was the fun guy in between two people trying to find solace in their lives. His only issue, in the movie, was the timing when his dad got sick. It made him miss the connections he was building up. When Joe appears on screen, you know he wants a good, wholesome time and it’s infectious. This is exhibit A of being a scene-stealer.

The Station Agent skyrocketed Dinklage, Cannavale, and Michelle Williams’s careers (Clarkson was already established). The movie had unique characters and features, including the rural New Jersey setting near the train tracks, and it meshed perfectly. When The Station Agent was originally released in 2003, it was considered an underrated gem.  Now, you could argue, it’s a classic 11 years later.

The Station Agent is on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

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  • A gem of a film. It took me many years to see this film from the time I learn of it until I sat down and experienced it. Along with great character development, subtle warmth in the friendships acquired and the wonderful backdrop, this was a bit of a homecoming for me as I grew up in Hopatcong, where the lake house scenes were filmed. It is nice to see a piece on a great film like this.

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