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March 27th, 2017

The Station Agent ****

Netflix Pick

 

I appreciate that our society has cracked down on public proclamations of prejudice.

Of course I’m not saying that racism has been eradicated; but at least it is totally unacceptable to say the n-word in public. Gays and lesbians haven’t achieved equality yet; but at least they don’t have to hear the f-word or the d-word in mixed company anymore. Most able-bodied adults view physically handicapped people as our equals in every way, and I think that’s due in part to the eradication of the c-word.

Compared to other oppressed minority groups, dwarfs haven’t made as much progress. The pejorative term midget hasn’t been stamped out like the other ugly slurs that I listed in the previous paragraph. And there are plenty of people who think that it is socially appropriate to laugh with their friends if they see a dwarf because nobody has taught them that it is astoundingly thoughtless and dehumanizing.

But there is hope. His name is Peter Dinklage. He’s a one-man army who is quietly fighting a war for dwarf awareness and equality.

A generation of intelligent Americans is watching HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” And each and every one of us likes Dinklage’s character, Tyrion Lannister.

Tyrion Lannister isn’t a great dwarf; he’s a great man. He’s clever, charming, resilient, resourceful, and hilarious. On “Thrones,” he is the most lovable character in a cast of dozens.

But the show doesn’t pretend that life is just as easy for a little person as it is for the rest of us. Tyrion was horribly belittled by his domineering father. And Tyrion has so little confidence in his manhood that he doesn’t even bother to try to court women who aren’t prostitutes.

Peter Dinklage is a first-rate actor. If you want to see him at his best but don’t enjoy the thick accents and extreme violence of “Game of Thrones,” check out his 2003 comedy/drama, “The Station Agent.”

“Agent” tells the entertaining story of Fin McBride: a dwarf who has taken so much crap from normal-sized humanity that he has subconsciously decided to tune us all out.

When his employer/only friend dies and leaves Fin a little shack in a small New Jersey town, he decides to retire there in solitude.

Fin’s depressing plan is thwarted by a pair of townies (Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale) who take a liking to him. The trio have absolutely nothing in common except desperate loneliness. But that’s enough to spark a life-affirming three-way friendship.

For a tiny-budget independent film, “The Station Agent” boasts an impressive ensemble cast – including Michelle Williams and “Mad Men”’s John Slattery. It’s a delightful, uplifting little movie and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Hurray for Peter Dinklage. He’s the 21st Century Sidney Poitier. And there is no better actor working today.

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