It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised, especially when David Lynch is involved. This is the only Lynch film that my library has as of this writing and it’s on tape. I checked it out over winter break and didn’t like it. I tried again earlier this summer and it improved.
How much of a surprise is it? It’s G-rated for starters, especially when you consider most of his other work. It’s a Disney film; again, something you wouldn’t normally associate with Lynch. Finally, it’s the simplest, straightest story he’s ever made and it works.
This film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight. He finds out that his estranged brother had a stroke. He wants to make amends before he dies and sets out on a journey. He rides a tractor through the countryside and encounters some people along the way, imparting his no-nonsense wisdom.
Anyone who has seen some of Lynch’s work would expect some of the strangeness to carry over here. Nope. Surely there must be a twist ending or something? Nope. Lynch pulls no punches in the telling of this tale. The simplicity of the music and dialogue, the purity of the countryside, and the story all come together to create a simple, endearing film.
Now, why did I like it the second time around and not the first? When I saw this the first time, I was just getting into my insane quest to watch a movie a day for 2013. I thought I saw enough Lynch to enjoy it but I was wrong. Later, I had a few more films under my belt and was willing to give it a second try and I had a better experience. I would not see this as your first Lynch film just because this one is so different than the rest of his work. Wait until you have maybe three or four (save Dune until much later) before watching for the best effect.