Thursday, 28 July 2011

Best Actor 1999: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story

Richard Farnsworth received his second and last nomination for portraying Alvin Straight in The Straight Story.

The Straight Story details the story of the elderly Alvin Straight's journey across America on a lawn mower to see his estranged brother who suffered a stroke.

Richard Farnsworth is an actor I can't say that I have seen all of his work, but I can say when I see him usually as a character actor I usually think he adds something nicely to the film. Farnsworth has this certain simple charm that is just wonderful. He always has a certain degree of life in his performance, and there is just something about him that make him both unique and interesting as an actor. This charm, and his unique quality as a performer certianly comes out and shines spectacularly well in this lead performance that I am certainly glad that he got before he died. This simple charm fits perfectly with the role of Alvin Straight. It is an interesting way Farnsworth has, and it fits for Straight perfectly, because he is nice and charming in possibly a simple rural fashion, but Farnsworth never seems to be a simple man.

It could have been an easy task of making Alvin Straight an overly perfect old man, but Farnsworth, nor the film ever portray him in that simple of a fashion. They always show that although he certainly is a nice old man, that is not all he is. Farnsworth always properly suggests that it was a long history and a long life with many mistakes that got Alvin Straight to this point, he certainly was not always this way. Farnsworth is simply wonderful in every moment of this performance, because he never seems for a moment that he is actor in this performance. There is not a single scene that I felt I saw an actor going on this journey, instead I really honestly felt I saw a man going on this journey. Farnsworth performance only has honesty an conviction throughout, every small moment feels as real as possible, Farnsworth is that good here.

Each little moment in this performance is wonderfully handled by Farnsworth. Early in the film there is not a great deal said by Farnsworth about Straight. He insists on going on his journey, that is about here early on, yet he creates an undeniable man early on here through the smallest of reactions, whether it is toward his heath report to the doctors, or to his daughter's concern over his health, Farnsworth always brings out genuine emotion within Alvin Straight. On the journey Farnsworth gets a little more to say, through his many small and large scenes of interacting with the various people that he comes across. There are perhaps two types of meeting one where he shows his knowledge, and wisdom, and the others were he tells of his own history although they certainly intersect.

His scenes of wisdom are just about perfect in every instance whether it is convincing a runaway about the importance of family, or just using his knowledge and ability to reduce a bill for repairing his tractor Farnsworth always has the perfect manner that is always natural, he is not trying to be wise, he just is as that is who Alvin Straight is. I will say Farnsworth's scenes of wisdom and knowledge are perfect in their suggesting how Straight has gotten to this point in his life, but were those scenes are perfect his scenes of Alvin's history are somehow on an even greater level. Every single moment where he talks about his past, and his mistakes are truly outstanding. Every moment is filled with a true honest poignancy.

All of these scenes are amazing, but I will particularly note his long speech about his time in World War II. The screen focuses on Farnsworth as he slowly reflects on his experience and what he did in the war. Farnsworth is utterly heartbreaking here, because he shows the true experiences of a man who has gone through this, it always feels like the true confession of the man, never for a moment is it less, which is a great achievement. Farnsworth performance is an incredible performance, and one of the most moving performances every nominated. I think his performance can really be best summed by his final scene where he finally sees his brother (Harry Dean Stanton who is also amazing in a very very short role) they barely even talk, but both actors due to their completely honest reactions to one another, absolutely suggest the whole long history of the brothers in such a short moment. This scene shows the nature of Farnsworth performance, a quiet but brilliant performance, every moment is true, and honest, and he makes the journey of Alvin Straight one of the most powerful and poignant journeys ever put on film.


Anonymous said...

Love your review, and love this remarkable performance

RatedRStar said...

Great work from an often forgotten legend, surprised the Academy didnt give it to him since Spacey had an oscar already.

dshultz said...

Wow did not see this coming at all.

mrripley said...

Aperf i can like but not love or nominate either.

Unknown said...

This is my first comment to this blog, and I must say the choices for every year are very similar to mine. I just watched this movie, and I must say, this performance was truly remarkable. It truly is a shame that he did not win, but it was a great performance to be a last.