GET LOW – with Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, directed by Aaron Schneider – Movie Review

by Kevin Bowen on August 6, 2010

in Film

Post image for GET LOW – with Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, directed by Aaron Schneider – Movie Review

FUNERAL ATTENDANCE (YOUR OWN)

This is the thing about a movie with a deep dark secret. The payoff should be about equal to or greater than the buildup.  It certainly shouldn’t feel like a letdown or a cop out. It should not be a way to get a likable character with a checkered past off the hook. No matter how tenderly Robert Duvall tries to sell the revelation in Get Low, it never quite burns off the rubbery smell of a soft landing.

As Felix Bush, Duvall hits a sweet spot as the Boo Radley of a Tennessee town in the thirties. Living as a hermit on his farmstead with only a mule for company, children make a game of running up to his property and throwing pebbles at him. Bush answers their rock-throwing with shotgun fire, which is roughly his answer to everyone. There are rumors and fears about the things he has done.

With death approaching, Bush wants to “get low” before God and seek forgiveness. With the help of the local funeral home, the shaggy old man decides to hold a funeral … while he’s still alive… to make amends. He invites the town to come and tell the stories they have heard about him. He plans to tell a story, as well.

Director Aaron Schneider’s smartest stroke is casting Bill Murray as the town’s mordant mortician. Placing Murray into this setting seems so antithetical to his screen persona. Yet it’s perfect, because we have all met people in small places that make us wonder how they got there. Murray delivers perfectly playing a mirror to Duvall; they are both men in whom it is too easy to believe the worst, only to be surprised by the generosity that emerges.

Most of Schneider’s career has been spent as a cinematographer, and that is evident. The film sparkles with a beautiful candlelit tone. A magical haze that makes it feel like the town might disappear, like Brigadoon, once the rainbow disappears. Some will inhale this mythical feel; some may see it as too much movie magic. I felt both ways at times.

Get Low has a fairly singular quality: it manages to be unique without being quite daring. While its emotions never feel fraudulent, at times they feel a little forced. It does many things right, leaves a memorable and amiable feeling. But it does not stamp itself on your mind.

kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com

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