Review: Get Low
PLOT: An elderly hermit (Robert Duvall), living in Depression-era Tennessee, decides to throw himself a living funeral, with the help of an unscrupulous funeral parlor owner (Bill Murray), and his young, clean-cut assistant (Lucas Black). Once preparations for the funeral get underway, the many skeletons in the hermits closet begin to emerge, starting with a long-ago spurned lover (Sissy Spacek).
REVIEW: GET LOW is a film I caught at the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall, thats now playing at Sundance. I remember attending the press screening, and hearing a buyer from Sony Pictures Classics talk to a local exhibitor about how hell know within the first twenty minutes if this is a film worth picking up, and if hes not around after that- this is a big pass.
Suffice to say; when the credits rolled he was still there, and a few days later it was announced that Sony had indeed picked up the theatrical rights to the film, which easily features Robert Duvalls best performance since THE APOSTLE. I was actually surprised this film didnt get a huge awards campaign a few months ago, but Im sure bringing it to Sundance means theyre planning on doing the Oscar push this year instead.
Whatever happens, Robert Duvall is all but guaranteed an Oscar nomination for his turn as elderly hermit Felix Bush. While at one time, Bush was a swashbuckling young man, with a thirst for adventure, and a way with the ladies, a major tragedy led to him adopting the life of a hermit, and when this starts, hes been living alone for over forty years. Meanwhile, the townsfolk have started imaging all kinds of crazy stories explaining his life of isolation, with most imagining hes a murderer. The only person who knows the truth about Felix, is the elderly black preacher (the great Bill Cobbs), who took his confession all those years ago, and for whom he built a beautiful church as an act of penance.
Its really hard to explain just how good Duvall is in this. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to interview Terry Gilliam shortly after he announced Duvall would be starring in his long-gestating, THE MAN WHO SHOT DON QUIOXTE project. He admitted that he actually asked Duvall to be in the film at the GET LOW after-party, and I imagine it was this film that sealed the deal, as Duvall has an energy here he hasnt shown in years. Its a thunderous performance, and one tinged with regret and sadness, which only an actor of Duvalls age and experience can bring to such a role.
Supporting Duvall is an actor with a similarly legendary pedigree; Bill Murray. From my synopsis, you might assume that Murrays the comic relief, but, while he has a few funny lines, he also has a strong dramatic arc of his own, revolving around his timid romance with Spaceks character. She clearly still carries a torch for Duvall, which leads to an interesting dynamic between his character and Duvall, with him harboring a degree of resentment for the man, while still happily taking his money- which he hopes will save his struggling business.
First time director Aaron Schneider does a great job with GET LOW, approaching it in a straightforward, but strongly effective manner, reminiscent of Clint Eastwoods work as a director. He style is that he almost doesnt have a style, and he never tries to infuse the film with any fancy camera tricks, filters, avid farts, etc., but rather lets the performances anchor the film. Similarly effective is the understated but elegant musical score by Jan A.P Kaczmarek.
GET LOW is a very entertaining character study that Im sure will garner heaps of acclaim at Sundance. The film probably wont hit theaters for awhile, as Sonys almost certainly going to hold it for the fourth quarter of the year, when all the other Oscar candidates come out, but be on the lookout, as its a very elegant, moving film.
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