Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
It's really funny how people see me and treat me, since I'm really just a simple, boring person. So says Finbar McBride, the hero of "The Station Agent." Nothing in life interests him more than trains. Model trains, real trains, books about trains. He likes trains. Finbar is a dwarf, and nothing about him interests other people more than his height. It's as if he's always walking in as the next topic of conversation. His response is to live in solitude. This works splendidly as a defense mechanism, but leaves him deeply lonely, not that he'd ever admit it.
Finbar is a character of particular distinction, played by Peter Dinklage as a man who is defiantly himself. Rarely have I seen a movie character more present in every scene. He is the immovable object, resisting approaches by strangers, and at first no one can get through his defenses except for a little African-American girl who looks straight at him and is not intimidated and will not be dismissed.
As the movie opens, Finbar is working in a model train store owned by apparently his only friend in the world, Henry Styles (Paul Benjamin). Henry drops dead, and Finbar inherits from him an abandoned train station near a town with the unlikely but real name of Newfoundland, N.J. Nothing prevents Finbar from moving immediately to New Jersey and living in the station, and so he does, exciting enormous curiosity from Joe Oramas (Bobby Cannavale), who runs a roadside coffee wagon on a road where hardly anyone ever seems to stop for coffee. Joe has unlimited time on his hands, is lonely in a gregarious rather than a reclusive way, and forces himself into Finbar's life with relentless cheerfulness. Cannavale is such an eruption of energy that the two quieter characters almost have to shield themselves from him. There's humor in Finbar's persistent attempts to slam the door on a man who totally lacks the ability to be rejected.
There is a third lonely soul in Newfoundland. She is Olivia Harris (Patricia Clarkson), who is going through a divorce and is in mourning for the death of her child. Olivia is a very bad driver. As Finbar walks to the convenience store one morning, she nearly hits him with her car. At the store, he has to endure posing for a snapshot taken by the clerk. Walking back home, he's nearly hit by her a second time, and takes a tumble into the ditch.