Operating as if the last twenty-five years of filmmaking never happened, Get Low plows its narrative field with the slow pacing of a mule, yet stays steady enough to keep its overall work a worthy endeavor. First-time director Aaron Schneider’s film has a heartfelt and somewhat amusing story to tell about one town’s mysterious hermit who decides to throw a funeral for himself before he dies. Shot entirely on location in Georgia, Get Low, propped up by some damn strong acting from its leads, feels as authentic as a country road.
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a cranky old man. He lives, deep in the woods, all alone. No one in the neighboring town knows much about him. They hear things. Maybe he shot a man. Maybe he stole some money. Maybe the devil himself works through him. The rumors swapped back and forth about the mysterious old hoot just about match the amount of bullets he shoots at trespassers, young or old, as they cross onto his property. Yet, all that the town thinks they know about Felix Bush is about to get challenged.
Knowing that he is nearing the end of his lonely life, Felix decides to ride his mule into a town full of cars and hire two men, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), to throw him a funeral party. Quinn’s Funeral Parlor, hurting for business in a town where no one dies, accepts his odd-sounding offer and set about collecting the needed guests, including Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) and Reverend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobb), to make the party go according to Felix’s wishes.
Written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, Get Low explores one man’s attempt to seek forgiveness, after spending a lifetime in a self-assigned purgatory, of his burden before it is time to ‘get low’. Duvall, in a criminally spot-on role destined to earn him an Oscar nomination, is a revelation every single minute on-screen in front of Schneider’s camera, chewing over dialogue with a precision unmatched by his contemporaries. Earnest, heartfelt, and humorously wise, one can easily tell that every page of Felix’s story means the world to the actor. It’s an achingly timeless portrayal of a folksy character enriched by Duvall’s timing and well-rooted intelligence.
Murray as the snake-oiled con man with a heart for Spacek’s Darrow is also note-for-note right in stride with Duvall’s performance. In fact, he might be the saving grace of this picture, balancing it out with real world cynicism. Neither wholly evil nor altogether good, Murray keeps his sad-eyed desires, in both paper and people, closely-guarded with his disarmingly genuine performance as the funeral party's organizer. It’s a genius stroke of casting and Murray, delivering a one-two punch of natural exactness, is operating as both the dollar-grabbing scoundrel and the desperate humanity of the narrative, saving the picture from being all too cutesy with his wiseass Chicago quips.
While the movie might belong to Duvall and Murray, Black and Spacek provide some clever and soft-spoken support along the way. Black’s role as Buddy, a family man and the only person Bush trusts with his money, is operating as the audience’s identifier between the two other men; he’s the grounding agent. Black is also the missing link Bush needs in fitting into a town that pretty much hates him. Spacek, in her first time sharing the screen with Duvall, navigates her way around both Murray and Duvall, revealing a softer and intriguing side to both men. Full of grace, Spacek sells the frustration her character feels with an elegance missing in most modern day actresses.
Yet it is the cinematography of David Boyd (previously of Firefly and Deadwood fame) that breathlessly steals the beauty of this film, yet also gives it its only weakness: pacing. Boyd’s camera lingers beautifully over everything zapping the film of much needed energy. Both haunting and romantic, the camera is effective in capturing the whimsical attitudes of the southern story too well. Get Low’s script is far too bare-boned to be so achingly rendered onto celluloid. If we had more of a development into the stories the townsfolk think they know about Bush, then perhaps we would have more of a reason to linger on certain things as there would be a certain change in its linear format. As it is, though, the camera – as rich as it is in adding texture – slows the pacing down to a noticeable speed. Sure, this doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable from a narrative construction POV, but once the turtle’s pace of the film seems much longer than its 100 minute running time, there is a problem.
Rich in premise and in rural settings, the Southern highs of Get Low might read as if straight from the imagination of Washington Irving. And like Irving, it's fanciful and learned, begging to be forgiven of its shortcomings. Yet, the ultimate strength of the picture comes from its complete study of contrasts in the roles of Duvall and Murray. While it might suffer from a lack of energy at times, the development of Get Low’s narrative will surely win over the most patient of audiences willing to listen to a good old fashioned yarn.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content.
Director: Aaron Schneider
Writer: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
Cast: Robert Duvall; Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray; Lucas Black
Memorable Movie Quote: "I want everybody to come who's got a story to tell about me"
Release Date: August 6, 2010
DVD Release Date: February 22, 2011
Tagline: A True Tall Tale
Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/getlow
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Synopsis: Get Low is a magical and moving blend of folk tale, fable and real-life legend. Spun in the Southern storytelling tradition, it is about the mysterious 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party . . . while he was still alive.
Academy Award winner Robert Duvall, Golden Globe winner Bill Murray, Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black form an ensemble of unforgettable characters who bring to life the surprising last act of Felix Bush, a life-long maverick and misfit who has been nearly swallowed up by the power of his town’s sinister myths about him – until he sets out to make a shocking confession in front of his own memorial service. The result is a comic, poignant, at times haunting tale about the snowballing nature of secrets, stories, heartbreak and the desire for redemption. Hide Trailer Details
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - February 22, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish; English, English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live
It just doesn’t get much better than this flawless transfer from Sony. Kicking out the glossy jams with the sort of detail and colors usually reserved for a Michael Bay picture, Get Low’s 1080p transfer packs so much detail that you can tell the type of weed in the grass surrounding Bush’s home. The black levels are consistent, well-defined, and thick throughout the picture. There is a perfect balance of grain and light making this release one of sheer perfection. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is also of note, maybe not as strong as the picture, but seeing as how very little in the way of sound happens in the picture, you won’t miss the finer details.
- A strong commentary from Director Aaron Schneider, Producer Dean Zanuck, and Actors Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek is provided for those seeking personal anecdotes from the filming of the movie and some technical information, too. Informative and relaxed, but always engaging.
Again, this release does not disappoint with its wide spectrum of supplemental material. Everything is in HD and entertaining, providing some inside looks at the construction and inspiration of the film, its actors, and its direction.
The breakdown of material is as follows:
- The Deep South: Buried Secrets (8 min)
- Getting Low: Getting Into Character (9 min)
- A Screenwriter's Point of View (5 min)
- Cast & Crew Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival (9 min)
- On the Red Carpet (4 min)
- Theatrical Trailer
- BD-Live Functionality