Movie Review: Get Low, starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black (with trailer video)


There’s more to relish in Get Low than just Duvall’s work. Bill Murray delivers an amazingly understated performance as the owner of the funeral home — the role is written as a one-note, greedy salesman, but Murray is able to convey hilarious self-depreciation in his delivery. Lucas Black is also good as a Murray’s young-but-honest assistant (and audience surrogate); the same goes for Bill Cobbs as the preacher at the funeral, and the always consistent Sissy Spacek as Felix’s old flame.

On the other hand, Get Low’s story is contrived to a T, with almost every scene building to the big emotional climax where Felix tells the truth as to why he locked himself away for all those years. Duvall’s speech is the only truly moving scene in the movie, but the filmmakers provide too many clues as to what Felix’s plan is all about, dampening the suspense a bit in the process. Even though you know the climactic scene is coming from the very beginning of the movie (and even from watching the trailer), Duvall sells the hell out of it and makes it truly memorable.

It’s no secret that Robert Duvall is one of our greatest living screen actors. Approaching 80, his notable performance in Get Low (along with memorable turns in last year’s The Road and Crazy Heart) show he’s still at the top of his game. Duvall may even get another Academy Award for his work here, though it’s not his best performance. To see Duvall at his greatest, I recommend you check out 1997’s The Apostle, one of the best films of that decade. What separates that film from Get Low is the sense of unpredictability the actor brings to his role, as if he where unleashed.

All that said, it’s a hard not to like Get Low. The movie is always interesting whenever Duvall and Murray are on screen, and I guess I’m a sucker for depression-era period detail. The film is pleasant enough, but there’s not much else to say other than its well acted, elegantly shot and a nice watch. And hell, I’m just thankful there was no damn narration expounding on the life lessons of the story.

It’s hard to talk about Aaron Schneider’s Get Low without considering the long career of Robert Duvall. The film is being hyped as a rejuvenation for the actor (much like Jeff Bridges’ Oscar win earlier this year), but that’s all advertisement. The real draw is seeing Duvall in a lead role like this again, one that’s completely tailored to his talents and tough-guy persona. As Felix Bush, a crusty old hermit with the nasty habit of attempting to shoot anyone who trespasses on his property (but with a good heart underneath the tough exterior, of course), Duvall makes a ridiculous character thoroughly believable.

At first glance the story is intriguing, no doubt thanks to it being reportedly true. A hermit living in a cabin in the Tennessee woods for almost 40 years becomes legend in a depression-era town, where hundreds of tall tales about him float among the populace. One day the hermit walks into town and offers a giant wad of cash to a funeral home to plan him a living funeral and invite everyone in the nearby area who has a story to tell about him. It sounds like a potentially morbid black comedy (and not a particularly inspired one, as Get Low shares a premise with The Living Wake, released earlier this summer), but the set-up is just window-dressing for a story of redemption.

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