Reviewed Sep 07, 2012
Rick Burin’s review:
"When his only friend dies, a man born with dwarfism moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog". So begins the plot summary over at IMDb. I didn't realise the sentence had cut off and thought that was possibly the best basis for a film EVER. But even without a verbose sausage roll (it's actually a hot dog vendor), this is comfortably one of the best movies of the decade just gone, boasting as it does a revelatory performance from Peter Dinklage. He's the deceptively boring dwarf who ups sticks upon inheriting a dilapidated train station and finds friendship with the relentlessly upbeat temporary manager of a mobile eaterie (Bobby Cannavale) and a damaged middle-aged woman (Patricia Clarkson), mourning the death of her son. Working with a minimum of dialogue, Dinklage is simply remarkable: poignant and yet completely unsentimental, while unleashing a series of breathtakingly funny reaction faces that put him in the exalted company of Buster Keaton, Joan Leslie and Walter Connolly. The scene in which he talks about his anger at being born a dwarf is especially resonant when you discover that those were Dinklage's own experiences too - his ire and sense of injustice subsiding with age.
The film's undulating narrative is perhaps a touch too formulaic in its happy-sad-happy-sad structure, but one wonders how else you build dramatic tension, and it's difficult to fault the level-headed script, with its abundant humour, confident handling of potentially mawkish subject matter, and periodic hammer blows. Writer-director McCarthy also provides some distinctive visuals - often shot at Dinklage's level and making the most of his fascinating features - giving the film a backwards-looking sensibility as he casually evokes a lost age of steam, society and station agents, aided by Stephen Trask's spare, Cooder-ish score. It's a terrific piece of work and a must for anyone in thrall to first-rate acting and emotionally-resonant human drama. Even without a talking hot dog.