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GET LOW (director: Aaron Schneider; screenwriters: Chris Provenzano/C. Gaby Mitchell/based on a story by Mr. Provenzano and Scott Seeke; cinematographer: David Boyd; editor: Aaron Schneider; music: Jan A. P. Kaczmarek; cast: Robert Duvall (Felix Bush), Sissy Spacek (Mattie Darrow), Bill Murray (Frank Quinn), Lucas Black (Buddy), Gerald McRaney (Rev. Gus Horton), Bill Cobbs (Rev. Charlie Jackson), Scott Cooper (Carl), Lorie Beth Edgeman (Kathryn, Buddy’s wife), Linds Edwards (WKNG Announcer); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Dean Zanuck/David Gundlach; Sony Pictures Classics; 2009)
“Great actors can at times elevate so-so material.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Languidly and at times awkwardly directed by Aaron Schneider, in his directorial debut (who also was editor). It’s based on a true story by Chris Provenzano and Scott Seeke, and is written by Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell. Meant to be a comedy with homespun humor and portending to have something perceptive to say about the human condition, which it accomplishes except it looks too familiar like something we seen many times before and thereby fails to be exciting. If Robert Duvall wasn’t playing an eccentric crank character, a part that he can do in his sleep, and giving us his usual brilliant performance, this pic would be closer to a dirge than a heartwarming drama.

It tells of a guilt-ridden hermit, with a big secret, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), who in the 1930s lived in the backwoods of East Tennessee. The title is a slang Southern term that refers to a funeral.

The unpopular and ornery Bush, a local legend, who showed only animosity to his neighbors all these lonely forty years as a hermit, goes to town to ask the local preacher (Gerald McRaney) to plan his funeral but fails to make an arrangement with the wary pastor. But the clean-cut young idealistic family man, Buddy (Lucas Black), the assistant to the struggling huckster funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), overhears Bush’s request at church and goes with his boss to see the prospective client in his secluded cabin in the woods.

It turns out Bush, flashing a wad of money in front of the too eager to please funeral director, wants to hold a funeral while he’s still alive, but to make sure he can get people to come he offers them financial reasons to attend (in the form of a raffle). Bush tries to convince a black preacher from Illinois, Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs), who he believes knows him best to tell at his funeral the real story why he withdrew from life and he wants to get up enough courage to ask his neighbors for forgiveness when they hear his story.

The climactic scene has the plain speaking Duvall at last tell us at his mock funeral the big secret and reason for making a party out of his funeral (but the secret revealed is a letdown and the unorthodox funeral arrangement might be true but it never really helped the film except to give it some seemingly artificial charm). But at last we learn the true story behind the local legend and the pic is saved just as Bush finds redemption through confession–proving great actors can at times elevate even so-so material.

Sissy Spacek has a small part as the widowed woman the Duvall character once dated but fled from her without explaining why; her mere presence brings life to the flick when it needed it most.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”