Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a hermit in early 1930s Tennessee who has no regard for anybody in the town or anyone who wants to get to know him. But one day, after an old fellow hermit dies and he hears people in the town telling stories about him, he decides he needs to get his own stories out in the public - at least one of them - one that has haunted him for 40 years. This would be via a funeral (or at least wake), while he's still alive. The job of arranging the early wake falls to Frank (Bill Murray) the local funeral director and his only employee Buddy (Lucas Black). Felix's big bad secret involves Matty (Sissy Spacek) who has just returned to town, and is also known by the preacher Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobb) a few hours drive away in Frank's car. But Charlie is reluctant to tell the story. Felix has to try and tell it to the crowd himself and he doesn't rightly know if he can do that.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Supposedly germinating from a true story, Get Low is one of those great stories that rise to universal relevance by its examination of a part of human nature we all understand intimately well: guilt.
But for what might appear as a basic guilt trip, Get Low is rather fun - at least for the most part. We are seduced by Robert Duvall's crusty old hermit (a performance loved by critics and actors alike) as he shoos off youngsters throwing stones at his window, isolating himself in his remote hut outside town and befriends only his donkey, now that his dog is dead. Whispers about him spread stories of a crazy past, but Felix is resolutely silent. And he has good reason, which once he articulates touches us deeply.
Bill Murray is dryly wicked as the funeral boss with a flask in the top drawer and an eye on the main chance, and Lucas Black is great as the naïve young husband and father dragged into some strange goings on in what he thought was a calm job. Sissy Spacek is splendid as the mysterious woman from Felix's past and Bill Cobb is charismatic as Charlie, the preacher who knows Felix's secret.
As Felix tries to come to terms with his demons, we see the casual cruelty fuelled by ignorance in a small community; sadly, the same applies in large communities. The writers also observe how life's nuances resist easy classification or labelling and how the predominant moral colour of most lives is an uneasy grey.
A performance film with soul and heart and a terrific sense of the place and time, with music to match, this is a film for the movie connoisseur.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Here's a film that grabs you from the outset and keeps you intrigued throughout its story about life, love and redemption. It's a story with a difference and the dynamics are riveting with Robert Duvall in top form as a salty old loner who has kept himself and his secrets hidden for 40 years. All you need to know is that he decides to come out of his self-imposed exile by throwing his own wake - a highly controversial move, especially the way he does it. Like an intricate rope whose intertwined elements include drama, wry humour and a touching love story, Get Low is a gem of a film. You won't forget it in a hurry.
When we meet Duvall's Felix Bush, hidden by a long beard and scruffy hair, he makes it clear that no-one is welcome at his home, tucked away in the Tennessee woods. His mule Gracie is his only companion until he heads to town to see Bill Murray's money-hungry funeral director Frank Quinn. The funeral business is slow. 'What are the odds of a funeral home going broke?' Frank muses before bemoaning the fact that death is a roaring trade in Chicago. Gossip is all that the townsfolk know about Felix and as the local priest says, Gossip is the Devil's radio. Frank eager to get his hands on Felix's stash of money and will do anything Felix wants - even if it's a wake with a lottery incentive for the townsfolk to tell tales about him.
Money makes people do funny things, Frank tells his rookie side-kick Buddy (Lucas Black), who becomes involved not only in the proceedings but in Felix's life. What is Felix's secret? And where does his former love Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) and Reverend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) fit in? This is a wonderful film filled with great moments and solidly grounded by Duvall's presence and superb performance.
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GET LOW (M)
CAST: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs, Scott Cooper, Lori Beth Edgman
PRODUCER: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck
DIRECTOR: Aaron Schneider
SCRIPT: Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Boyd
EDITOR: Aaron Schneider
MUSIC: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Geoffrey Kirkland
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 26, 2011