Title: Get Low
Starring: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney and Bill Cobbs.
Much like the true story it’s loosely based on, the new Sony Pictures Classic low budget movie ‘Get Low’ started off as a reclusive tale before building up momentum and attention. Quietly getting praised by some when it premiered last September at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), first time movie director Aaron Schneider’s extremely limited release was like main character Felix Bush (played by Robert Duvall)-a hermit, only playing in four theaters across America during the second half of the summer.
But as the first anniversary of its premiere at TIFF grew near, praise of Duvall’s performance in part garnered a deserved expansion of ‘Get Low’ into more theaters nationwide. Duvall seemed to understand the need for Felix to get away from the society that shunned him, therefore living deep in the woods of Roane County, Tennessee for forty years. The movie follows Felix’s life in 1938, when he shows up at Quinn Funeral Home and asks owner Frank Quinn (portrayed by Bill Murray) for a living funeral. Felix wants town members to come to the funeral and tell stories they’ve heard about him.
But once Felix gets reacquainted with former love Mattie Darrow (played by Sissy Spacek), and gets to know Frank’s salesman, Buddy Robinson (portrayed by Lucas Black), he changes his mind about the funeral. He instead considers setting the record about his life straight himself, so people understand him better.
‘Get Low’ deserves credit for wanting to touch on the unique subject of wanting to clear your name and make peace with yourself and your neighbors before you die. However, the script, co-written by first-time screenwriter Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, touches on several different subjects, but it still feels as though it lacks true resolution and substance in the end. Provenzano, who rose to fame writing episodes for such shows as ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Justified,’ didn’t seem to be able break away from the more simplified television structure.
For example, Frank and Buddy hold money in a casket for Felix he’s receiving in the mail for a raffle at his funeral party. One day when Buddy is adding more money to the casket, someone breaks into the funeral home and hits him over the head. No reason is really given why, and the subject is never brought up again.
Also, for the majority of the script, the town is constantly talking about the stories and rumors they heard about Felix, but they are never fully explained. While Schneider may have personally done this to get the audience to understand how Frank and Buddy are feeling towards Felix, questioning what exactly he’s done to the town, the exact rumors are never really addressed.
While Duvall indeed deserves credit for perfecting the life of a hermit, and Murray should get credit from switching from his usual genre of comedy to drama, Black was the stand-out star of ‘Get Low.’ Having previously risen to fame in the teen action movie ‘The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift,’ Black switched gears to show he’s maturing as an actor. He shows Buddy wants to live morally and do right by his wife and child, while adequately serving the town during their times of need.
Schneider, who previously won an Academy Award in 2004 for Best Short Subject for his 40-minute movie ‘Two Soldiers,’ will undoubtedly receive recognition again for ‘Get Low.’ The Academy loves to honor films that showcase the dramatic transformation of a character and the resolution of internal conflict, which is what ‘Get Low’ is all about.
Written by: Karen Benardello