by Brian Brait

The Station Agent

dir. McCarthy

Opens Fri Oct 17

Various Theaters

Dwarves are funny. Not HA HA funny, but like, "WhoaÉ look at that little guy, he's just like me, but wee" funny. Imagine having to face that scrutiny everyday, accepted, but noticed as "other."

Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage), The Station Agent's protagonist, was born a dwarf, and has built up a stone-faced resistance to the stares and slurs directed at him daily. When he inherits a small abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, he leaves the city and makes the shack his home. Within a day, the locals notice him and are banging on his door.

First comes Joe (Third Watch's Bobby Cannavale), a recent transplant taking care of his ailing father and running a Cuban food truck parked just outside Fin's station. Next is Olivia (Far From Heaven's Patricia Clarkson), a painter living in semi-seclusion after the death of her young son, who meets Fin after nearly running him over with her SUV. All three are damaged goods. Through conversation, beer, and lots of walking the rails, this unlikely triangle forms a fucked-up family of sorts. But tensions arise as Olivia is forced to deal with the life and husband she abandoned. Joe's father's health continues to fail, and Fin is pursued by a pregnant, teenaged librarian (Dawson's Creek's Michelle Williams).

Dinklage stands out as a great performer and brings depth to a role that could have been treated as novelty. Cannavale and Clarkson add weight and texture to their character's lives. The film has a lazy swagger, like a train swaying down the rails.

You could call The Station Agent the Norma Rae of dwarf movies, with Fin hopping up on the bar at one point and doing his best Sally Field. But, unlike Field, we like FinÉ we really, really like himÉ and he makes the The Station Agent worth the journey.