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Alvin Straight, an elderly man living with his brain-damaged daughter Rose, hears that his estranged brother Lyle has had a stroke. Disappointed that he's never made up for the incident that (he was drunk at the time) led to their split so he goes to apologize. But he's almost blind, half paralyzed and unable to drive or walk long distances. Unwilling to let life end this way, he begins riding on his lawnmower and goes to make amends.
Not to be confused with Straight Story, a Greek movie about straight couples in a gay world.
The Straight Story provides examples of:
- Biopic: There was a real Alvin Straight, though unfortunately he did not live to see the film.
- Blatant Lies: The doctor tells Alvin he's dying (not in so many words, but still). When Alvin's brain damaged daughter asks how it went:
Alvin: Doctor said I'll live to be a hundred.
- Cain and Abel: Alvin and Lyle, even suggested by Alvin himself.
- Cool Old Guy
- Dawson Casting: Averted, Richard Farnsworth was the exact same age as Alvin Straight. Thus, he became the oldest actor ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor.
- Determinator: Alvin Straight's biggest flaw, oddly enough. His life would probably be better if he stopped drinking when his brother wanted him to and listened to his doctor. Still, you have to say something for a man who's blind and barely able to walk who is able to make it across the country to visit his brother.
- Double Meaning Title: The man's name is Straight, but calling the movie "The Straight Story" makes joking reference to the fact that David Lynch is "playing it straight" and telling a coherent, mainstream "story" instead of screwing with your head as usual.
- Directing Against Type: Would you believe that David Lynch made a movie that isn't a Mind Screw?
- Notable opening credits: "Walt Disney Pictures presents... a film by David Lynch".
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: Not in the movie, but a meta-example. Richard Farnsworth was going to turn down the film because he didn't like the language in Blue Velvet. Only several personal assurances by Lynch and the other writers that the film would contain no cursing did he agree to do it.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Everett McGill as a tractor salesman, Chris Farley's brothers as repairmen, Sissy Spacek as Rose Straight, and Harry Dean Stanton as Lyle.
- Informed Flaw: Alvin's alcoholism to an extent. In the film he's been reformed for years, but the movie makes it very clear the toll that hard living has had on him. Also, averted in Real Life - Richard Farnsworth really was half-blind and half-paralyzed. Indeed, the actor committed suicide shortly after the film rather than bear extremely painful and obviously terminal bone cancer.
- Rousseau Was Right: There is not a single character in this movie to be actually unpleasant. Everyone is a saint.
- Well the story is set in Iowa and is intended to be non-fiction, soooo...
- Scenery Porn
- Signature Style: If you pay attention during a David Lynch movie to anything other than the abstract weirdness, you'll be amazed how much this actually does resemble his previous work.
- Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer: Harry Dean Stanton plays Lyle.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Strongly Idealistic.
- Verbal Tic: Due to a stroke, Rose Straight has difficulty speaking and forces her words out in short bursts.
- You Answered Your Own Question: Dorothy: "What's the number for 911?"