Get Low: movie review
In 'Get Low,' a poignant, superbly acted gem, Robert Duvall plays a recluse who throws a party during the Depression.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
With his long, stringy mountain-man beard and unblinking stare, Robert Duvallâ€™s Felix Bush is not a man to be trifled with. Living hermitlike in the Tennessee backwoods in the depths of the Depression, he totes a shotgun and welcomes guests on his property with the sign: â€śNo damn trespassing. Beware of mule.â€ť
â€śGet Low,â€ť the first feature of director Aaron Schneider, tells the story of how Felix, after 40 years as a recluse, arranges with Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the local funeral parlor proprietor, to stage his own funeral while heâ€™s still alive and able to hear what everybody will say about him.
Itâ€™s a common fantasy, of course. But why would Felix, who clearly despises the townsfolk, want to put himself through it?
The answer, when it comes, is a bit soppy, but it all works because Duvallâ€™s Felix has a lived-in authenticity and a poignancy. This tough old bird can get away with being a sentimental old coot because we already know he doesnâ€™t give up his secrets lightly.
Not only Duvall shines. Murray, in case anybody still doubted it, is one of the finest character actors in America. Frankâ€™s exasperation with this ornery client is tempered by the big pay day he foresees. Heâ€™s a slickster who regards the funeral business as, well, a business. His soothing, oleaginous tones are the surest sign that heâ€™s looking to score.
And yet Murray also humanizes Frank by giving him a core of decency that reveals itself in blurts of exasperation. â€śIs it just me,â€ť he asks his callow assistant Buddy (Lucas Black), referring to Felix, â€śor is he extremely articulate when he wants to be?â€ť
There are other terrific performances. Sissy Spacek, playing a woman Felix dated many years before, has a chilling scene with Duvall â€“ sheâ€™s stricken, heâ€™s penitent. Itâ€™s like watching two pros give a master class in acting.
Best of all might be Bill Cobbs as the minister whom Felix fruitlessly seeks out to preside over the mock funeral. Cobbs has a sly, roiling wit and a low-slung sense of timing that imbues each of his scenes with a folklorish glow. Cobbs has been acting in the movies, mostly under the radar, since the mid-1970s. He needs to be recognized as one of our best.
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