Straight Shootin’: 1999’s “The Straight Story”

David Lynch  built a G-rated movie, The Straight Story (1999), around the event of 73-year-old Alvin Straight taking a trip by riding mower to visit his stroke-afflicted brother.  The trip, in 1994, began in Iowa and ended in Wisconsin.  A gentle picture with humor, it was meant to be deeply moving, and it is.  It concerns people, viz. Alvin and his daughter Rose, who have somehow endured.  The sentimentality with which Alvin (a perfect Richard Farnsworth) speaks of family is something he does not possess regarding old age, and neither does the film.

Lynch was content to forgo the elements of sex and nudity and violence and profanity this time lest they prevent an audience from “feeling” something.  For his next film, Mulholland Drive (2001), he went back to sex and nudity but this picture, too, can be moving, as well as sad.  But Lynch was going backwards; unlike The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive is a clunker.

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