FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
Get Low (2009) is a showcase for Robert Duvall’s tremendous acting chops. Do I really need to give you another reason to watch it? If so, then the same can be said for his co-stars Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Lucas Black. This movie is all about giving these fine actors the opportunity to truly shine with juicy dialogue, rich visuals, and even a sense of humor thrown in. The story starts better than it finishes, but the journey is well worth a viewing.
Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, an old guy filled with bitter regret whose been living alone as a hermit out in the woods for decades all by himself. He’s sensing that his death is near and he wants to have a funeral party, before he dies ironically, that he can attend himself so that he can reveal a secret he’s been hiding since he was young. He wants everyone that’s ever heard of him to attend the party. So he hires a funeral director, played by Bill Murray, to organize the event and make it all happen. It’s better to leave the rest of the story for the film, because as usual, I think you’re better off knowing less vs. more going into this film.
I was pleasantly surprised by the originality and high production quality of Get Low. It’s not a movie I’ll ever forget. It definitely stands apart from the crowd as a bit of an odd duckling, but in a good way! In a lesser year for films, it might have garnered more critical and awards attention, but getting its major theatrical release in 2010 gave it too much competition I think. 2010 was a pretty amazing year for film. But on blu-ray, Get Low finds a good home. And hopefully an appreciative audience. I can’t say enough about the cinematography on this film by David Boyd. Get Low looks incredible! The deep, dark, inky blacks and rich, warm, contrasty colors make the film pop on your home theater screen. I definitely suggest you see this on blu-ray if you can. I doubt DVD would do it justice.
Production Designer Geoffrey Kirkland seems to have a knack for finding and creating locations and sets that are rich and realistic, and filled with time and story appropriate detail. Kirkland did a fantastic job as production designer on Mississippi Burning (1988) and Children of Men (2006). And he’s done the same here. He just knows how to bring a small, rural southern town to life! The sound design, sound editing, and music on Get Low are well done and lend life to the story, as usual. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s score fits the story with a nice combination of seriousness and witty charm. It’s got an ironic tone at times.
Get Low is director Aaron Schneider’s debut feature film. And as a director (and film editor), I think he has a bright future ahead of him based on his results here. Schneider’s unique vision and look for the film, along with perfect casting, created a movie that breaks out of the typical mainstream Hollywood movie mold, giving the older characters the center of attention. It’s nice to see a director as the editor as well. It seems to me that more and more young directors are learning how to edit in their early work, and its nice to see mainstream movies where the director is giving the freedom to be the editor as well. It’s not for every director, but it worked for Schneider here.
The dialogue and writing are excellent from screenwriters Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell. But the story by Provenzano and Scott Seeke could have used a little more polish in my opinion. I think the first two acts of the film are well thought out, but the final act does feel a bit empty to me. While I like the courageous exploration of the themes of revenge, lust, forgiveness, and death that are looked at in Get Low, I also feel like the set-up and expectations by the time we get to “the big story” are so big that the payoff just isn’t there. I wanted to feel a stronger and deeper emotional connection to Felix (Robert Duvall’s character), but I didn’t. But overall, Get Low deserves to be seen and probably seen again on my part down the road. I still think about it on occasion since I first saw it weeks ago. And most importantly, the questions and themes that Get Low explores are always in my mind, simmering and waiting to come to the forefront where they can be explored another time while watching another movie.