A G-rated, Disney-produced, family-friendly film from David Lynch seemed like a fairly questionable prospect at the time, but The Straight Story turned out to be the perfect choice for the director, allowing him to extricate himself from the nihilist-cool corner into which he'd been painted and make one of his best films in the process. Though a departure in many respects, the film also has a lot more in common with Lynch's past work than might be immediately apparent. For those who had accused Lynch of merely presenting freak shows against the backdrop of apple pie America, The Straight Story serves as a reminder that he generally sympathized with the freaks, even if he maintained a taste for apple pie. Richard Farnsworth's character embodies both aspects, a sweet patriarch whose dogged singlemindedness makes him a freak, his peculiar vehicle of choice and willingness to provide commentary causing nearly everyone he encounters to reevaluate the current status of their lives. The generous slowness of Lynch's pacing nicely matches the subtlety of Farnsworth's performance, one of hidden depths only revealed when allowed time and concentration. As with the lead, so it is with the movie, a heartfelt testament to the importance of family values -- with none of the judgmental politics usually attached to that phrase.
by Keith Phipps review