In my capacity as ornery cuss, unless I can screen them pre-buzz, I generally sit out wildly popular movies on principle. Often, this proves wise; in the case of a genuinely worthy film like Sideways or The Station Agent, I'm only punishing myself. That there are similarities between the films (strong sense of place, a rock-solid script, actors who look like real people) doesn't surprise me. I've always had a weakness for the indie film; I'll generally cut it more slack than a studio picture, just because I know that for as hard as it is to get any movie made the right way, the sheer force of will that's required to pull together the resources needed to make an indie deserves support.
But too often, indies piss away that good will with aggressively quirky stories or hackting. That The Station Agent is set in super-smalltown rural New Jersey and is populated with a train-loving dwarf/loner, a chatty Latino hot-truck operator with a lust for life, and a kooky painter who meets cute with the dwarf by nearly running him over not once but twice in her SUV, didn't bode well.
But the film unfolds slowly, ever so slowly, confident in the reality of the world it's creating, with beautiful, in-the-pocket performances by almost the entire cast (I had a wee problem with a couple of actors playing the local tough-guy losers winking at their characters instead of just playing them). I'm a fan of Patricia Clarkson's since her genius performance in High Art, and after seeing the unbelievably self-possessed Raven Goodwin knock it out of the park both in this and Lovely and Amazing I would like someone to please explain to me why this incredible little girl does not have a huge movie career, her own TV show or both.
Enough. It's on DVD now; if you're an asshole like me who sat it out while it was in the theaters, you can put it on your Netflix queue and no one will be the wiser.