Movies are like personalities, some seem derivative of others, but in the long run, each has its own quirks, peculiarities, and oddities. But, we all know that no two are exactly alike (and that’s a good thing. I can’t imagine unleashing another “me” on society. God help us all).
“Get Low” released in 2009, was the directorial debut of longtime cinematographer Aaron Schneider, who was cinematographer on TV movies such as “Miss Miami” and “Drift.” If you’ve actually heard of these movies, contact your local psychotherapist because you officially have no life. Anyway, “Get Low” is a folksy story about an old hermit, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), who resides, in utter isolation, on 300 tree-filled acres in Tennessee during the 1930’s. Evidently the movie is based on a true story. After an obvious flashback that is the opening image, we meet the curmudgeon. (Think Shrek in the flesh). One afternoon, a brave soul arrives at Felix’s shack and notifies him that an old acquaintance of Felix’s has passed. This is the incident that gets the story dawdling along.
Even though Felix would rather slice off his left foot than show an iota of emotion, this news penetrates the gruff exterior of the man, and one can tell this is the final straw that must push Felix to face his own mortality. So, Felix rolls into town (evidently something he hasn’t done is quite a while) and pays a visit to the town’s funeral parlor and owner, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray). It seems Felix desires his funeral while he’s still alive, so he can hear all the “stories” (gossip) that have been told about him for the last forty years. This is actually a sub-plot that is stated in a brilliant line by the Pastor (Gerald McRaney) to Felix: “Gossip is the Devil’s radio.”
Quinn is more than happy to oblige Felix as business is slow, “What do ya do when people don’t die?” Quinn moans, and Felix plops down a wad of cash we’d all be envious of. (How he made it, we never learn). When in town, Felix runs into an old “girlfriend,” Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek). The rest of the movie revolves around these characters, plus Quinn’s new salesman, Carl (Scott Cooper) and then the eventual buildup to the climactic “funeral”.
The acting in this movie is superb by all, as should be expected given the cast. The screenplay is very sparse. There’s something to be said about brevity and the power of words, and writers Chris Provenzano and C. Gabby Mitchell penned excellent dialogue and some very powerful, conflict ridden scenes. Bill Murray is basically playing himself and is the lowbrow comic relief a story like this desperately deserves. The main theme is basically a question we all ask ourselves at some point in time: “what is my legacy?” As to not give away any spoilers, the script has some unusual plot twists, which manage to keep the viewer engaged throughout.
The problem with the script (the movie’s personality) is the tone. It’s like a guy who’s sitting courtside at game seven of the NBA Finals with the game tied and only 2 seconds left, and he’s falling asleep. Sure, not every movie needs car chases, bombs exploding or human limbs flying every which way, but some excitement might enhance the experience. I could feel the ever so slight build up to the climactic “funeral” but man, it was like, “anybody got some amphetamines? I could really use some right about now!” And if Bill Murray wasn’t in this movie with his natural charm and wit, the flick would have put an insomniac out for days.
Let me just say this: this movie is for grownups or total movie geeks that love to love a movie that they know most of the general movie going population is going to slam. Of course it rated in the 80’s on RottenTomatoes; I knew the critics would slobber all over it.
My main problem with the movie is that I really didn’t care for Felix. I didn’t feel he was worthy of my empathy, and that, my friends, is a huge no! no! Sure, he has his elixir moment at the end, as he finally releases his secret that’s kept him in isolation for all those years, but the nature of what he did made me feel even more distain for the character, not forgiveness.
Also, I’m huge on the way screenwriters structure the ending of their story. A powerful, emotion-filled ending can literally elevate a movie from OK status to extremely well-done. If the writer’s of “Get Low” had a really killer ending, they obviously left it in one of the other drafts of the script, because it sure as hell didn’t make it into the shooting script.
“Get Low” is a story teller’s movie for an audience that can hang in there with, for the most part, some pretty boring characters following a very slow-moving plot line. I guess in my final diagnosis, “Get Low” is able to function in society but has some serious personality disorders. Next patient!