Get Low

Cantankerous Recluse Duvall Style

         
 

30 July 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

You don’t need to take a leap of faith to know that Robert Duvall is still as good as ever after all these years. He is not one of those fading icons like DeNiro or Hoffman that has thrown in the towel for hefty paychecks. But with Get Low, in particular, it is his grittiest role he has been given in quite some time. Duvall plays a 1930’s character named Felix Bush, a backwoods recluse who has stayed away from folks for decades but now wants to throw a funeral – while he’s still alive – so he can hear what the locals really have to say about him.

Supposedly this is based on a true story of a man and his “living funeral,” although the drama has been embellished (almost to a fault). Felix is a hard man submerged in the squalor of his cabin in the woods before he comes to town with a shotgun and a bundle of saved cash, but he is not a stupid man. His case gets mileage out of the local funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his apprentice Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black) who think in 1930’s “modern” terms how they can spruce up and promote this unorthodox funeral and turn it into something of a festival. Sissy Spacek as widow Maddie Darrow, and Bill Cobbs as preacher Charlie Jackson, are the other key Southern characters.

Duvall is Duvall, the fine-tempered crazy genius with just enough articulate composure that makes him less the crazy type and more the genius type. When has this acting icon ever disappointed? He hasn’t, although this is surely his richest gruff and growl performance since the western “Open Range” (2003). From the roster of supporting characters, Bill Murray nevertheless stands out more than anyone else, because you think, there must have been loosey-goosey guys like Murray that existed somewhere back then in the 1930’s. Murray’s specialty has become bringing comedy to dramatic roles, as proved with “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “Broken Flowers” (2005). Here his character is a huckster who operates on half sincerity, one with a salesman smile.

The details of how the radio and poster ads are configured to publicize Felix’s funeral becomes a focal interest. Until a dramatic “secret” begins to make the narrative drag, bypassing whimsy and folksiness for the sake of creating faux mystery in Felix’s character, a secret that he has been harboring for decades. When Felix is let down by his associates, he wants to call the whole thing off, this sends Frank into panic over this unusually high-priced funeral arrangement that he has sunk all business cash into. Also trouble is that with Felix’s passing there was a promised raffle for his property, but after pulling out, he hardly cares that he has inconvenienced everyone.

Do you think that his ensemble of new friends will coax him to attend his own “living funeral” as promised? The secret itself, not revealed until the end, is nothing that will shatter the soul, but Duvall gets a grandstanding, if beautifully modulated delivery, out of a monologue that says all. “Get Low,” as you can tell, has beautiful acting from top to bottom. The story, wrapping around the mysterious secret, only passes for mustard only because it is in the context of the 1930’s period setting where obsession about God and Devil, and of the sin of adultery, could have only taken place so dogmatically and sincerely then.

103 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

PERIOD DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / FALL MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Tribute” (1980); “Tender Mercies” (1983); “Broken Flowers” (2005); “Venus” (2006).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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