Get Low (2009)
Directed by: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray
Screenplay by: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
MPAA rating: PG-13
Run Time: 102 minutes
Get Low is a complicated, multi-layered movie that is worth your time. I will start off by reassuring you that the movie does explain the meaning of the title, so I will let you discover that on your own.
The plot of Get Low is based on a factual event. However, the movie does a wonderful job of taking the bare facts and expanding it into a thoughtful fable.
In the 1930′s a hermit named Felix Bush (played here by Robert Duvall) decided he wanted to have a funeral celebration which he could attend while still alive. To draw a crowd he held a lottery for the plot of land that he owned deep in the woods.
Get Low takes these events and expands them into a much richer story which examines why a man who has lived by himself in the woods would want to have in essence a “living funeral” that he himself attends.
To this reviewer, the reasons why Felix wanted to unburden himself before he died seemed somewhat obvious about half-way through the movie. However it is still a story well-told. Since Get Low does not reveal this full tale until the very end of the movie, this is also something I will not spoil for future viewers.
Robert Duvall does an excellent job playing this flawed and complicated character. Duvall portrays Felix Bush with very little spoken language for most of the movie. It is an interesting choice, and demonstrates to the audience that he has been living by himself for many years. Since he hardly speaks, that also emphasizes how difficult it is for him to tell his story publicly. As well, Duvall looks the part. When we first see him with a full beard and long hair it is easy to believe that he has been living as a hermit in the woods.
Bill Murray steals every scene as Frank Quinn. Murray’s dry and understated manner works perfectly for this character. Murray plays Quinn as a mixture of sly con man and caring adult and he radiates through the screen. Though Murray has played similar characters previously in films such as Rushmore (1998), he does this clever yet mournful type better than anyone.
Sissy Spacek does a capable job of playing Mattie Darrow. Almost all the main characters are men and Mattie is one of the few women with a significant role in the plot. However Spacek portrays Mattie as fluctuating between being no-nonsense and highly emotional, so connecting to her character was difficult. One aspect done well is that the movie cleverly but slowly reveals the mysterious relationship between Mattie and Felix.
One confusing issue was the time period. Clearly the movie was meant to take place in the 1930′s. However, the movie had a contemporary feeling. The characters spoke in a style and with a tempo which felt modern. On the other hand, it was fun to see the props of old fashioned cars, phones, and clothes on the screen.
The pace of Get Low is slow but this is a movie which will hold your interest. It also contains some excellent acting by Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.