Get Low (2009)

Get Low
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Mature theme

Director: Aaron Schneider
Actors: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black

For years, townsfolk have been terrified of the backwoods recluse known as Felix Bush (Robert Duvall). People say he's done all manner of unspeakable things – that he's killed in cold blood; that he's in league with the Devil; that he has strange powers – and they avoid him like the plague. Then, one day, Felix rides to town with a shotgun and a wad of cash, saying he wants to buy a funeral. It's not your usual funeral for the dead Felix wants. On the contrary, he wants a 'living funeral,' in which anyone who ever had heard a story about him will come to tell it, while he takes it all in. Sensing a big pay day in the offing, fast-talking funeral home owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) enlists his gentlemanly young apprentice, Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), to win over Felix' business. Buddy is no stranger to Felix' dark reputation, but what he discovers is that behind Felix' surreal plan lies a very real and long-held secret that must get out.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 103mins
Origin: GERMANY
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Death of the party
by Simon Miraudo,

T.S. Eliot said the world would end “not with a bang but with a whimper”. That certainly seemed true this past weekend, when evangelist Harold Camping’s prediction of a fire-and-brimstone rapture engulfing the entire universe turned out to be as prophetic as Charlie Sheen’s assumptions that he would be invited back to star on Two and a Half Men. Although the universe didn’t come to an end – and thank goodness for that – the threat of the apocalypse certainly cast a pall over the screening of Aaron Schneider’s tale of mortality, Get Low. How ironic that I might have spent my last day on Earth watching a film about a man readying himself for the sweet embrace of the grave. There are worse ways to spend your final hours. Had Camping suggested the world would end a few months earlier – and bee...

T.S. Eliot said the world would end “not with a bang but with a whimper”. That certainly seemed true this past weekend, when evangelist Harold Camping’s prediction of a fire-and-brimstone rapture engulfing the entire universe turned out to be as prophetic as Charlie Sheen’s assumptions that he would be invited back to star on Two and a Half Men. Although the universe didn’t come to an end – and thank goodness for that – the threat of the apocalypse certainly cast a pall over the screening of Aaron Schneider’s tale of mortality, Get Low. How ironic that I might have spent my last day on Earth watching a film about a man readying himself for the sweet embrace of the grave. There are worse ways to spend your final hours. Had Camping suggested the world would end a few months earlier – and been correct – I might have had to accept the fact that Battle: Los Angeles would be the last film I ever saw. But if any movie would make me pray for a swarm of locusts to swallow me whole, that would be the one.

According to its poster, Get Low is based on a “true tall tale”. A hermit by the name of Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), having spent forty years in self-imposed exile in the woods, employs a couple of morticians, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), to organise for him a funeral. Seems like a reasonable enough request. Felix has the cash, and Frank and Buddy – confounded by the lack of deaths in their town of late – are desperate for a well-paying job. The catch is that Felix doesn’t plan on being dead for the funeral; he would much rather attend, alongside all the townspeople that fear him so. Apparently this really happened back in 1938, and just like in the film, the hermit made no secret of his not being dead. The version of the legend that I’m familiar with – and the version that makes sense – is that the pre-corpse attends the funeral in secret; that way they can finally discover what people say about them when they no longer fear retribution. Felix has no interest in such duplicitous behaviour. He knows that everyone in town thinks he’s a vile old coot, and he doesn’t really give a damn. Instead, he wants everyone to come so that he may reveal to them a secret that will explain why he has stayed in isolation for all these years.

As if it even needs to be said, Robert Duvall really is great as Felix Bush; he reveals himself so slowly and steadily, as to unveil facets of his character and personality only when he sees fit. It’s a performance that deserves a better screenplay. Writers Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell have taken this legend and expanded it admirably, leaving out one vital element: a motive. Why does Felix want to share this secret with the entire town? As is established, he truly doesn’t care what they think about him. He certainly doesn’t seek God’s forgiveness either. Why stand up in front of a crowd after forty years to share something so personal? Because it offer a nice cathartic climax? That’s not quite enough. It doesn’t help that there really is no sense of community in this film. Although the masses turn out for Felix’s fake funeral, we’ve barely met any of them prior to this moment. Save the final sequence, I would have believed the town was only inhabited by about six or seven other people. Hell, they’re all hermits!

Although the film’s finale left me wondering ‘why?’, the rest of the picture is well-performed enough to warrant at least one pre-apocalypse watching. Duvall gives us the sense that Felix is more than just a crazy person, or worse, a manipulative PR machine (he’s surprisingly adept at recruiting people to come to his morbid little shindig); he is a man who knows he’s on the cusp of death, and is ready to make amends. Although his reasoning is murky, the performance is convincing. Murray employs his sharp-tongued/sad faced shtick to devastating effect. Sissy Spacek is also – expectedly – excellent as a former flame of Felix’s. First time feature director Schneider offers a deft touch, although the film’s tone wavers unnervingly between melodrama and aww-shucks-quaintness. What else can I say? It's time to Get Low with Duvall, Murray and Spacek! (Forgive the clichéd finale; all this rapture talk has me contemplating my own mortality, and I sure would like to get quoted on a DVD cover before the Earth is dismantled.)

3/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (46)

I would highly recommend this movie. Robert Duvall is superb as the hermit and Bill Murray is a revelation. Best thing I have seen him do for a while.
Posted Monday, 4 November 2013 See my other reviews
freo
says
A bit slow but worth a viewing
Posted Tuesday, 9 July 2013 See my other reviews
Senorita K
says
There is not one of Robert Duvall's movies that I have not enjoyed. the casting of Bill Murray perfect. I recommend this movie, one that lingers in ones memory
Posted Tuesday, 18 June 2013 See my other reviews
muddymech
says
its long and slow but very appealing to me, dont expect adventure and its good
Posted Wednesday, 12 June 2013 See my other reviews
Harris
says
I enjoyed this movie, different concept which had me wondering on how it would end. Love Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and of course Bill Murray. Would recommend.
Posted Sunday, 5 May 2013 See my other reviews
Ray
says
A very good movie, kept the intrigue going until the end
Posted Friday, 12 April 2013 See my other reviews
Terry
says
Slow moving. If the cover picture looks engaging to you, watch it. Interesting at least, though maybe boring for some.
Posted Wednesday, 27 February 2013 See my other reviews
Bev M
says
we both enjoyed this movie, kept us intrigued.
Posted Wednesday, 30 January 2013 See my other reviews
alistair c
says
Very enjoyable. Good characters and some good dialogue. Maybe lacked a little "oomph" but quite a nice little story.
Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 See my other reviews
Robbie
says
Robert Duvall is a brilliant actor, but couldn't save a dull screenplay. Shame, it was in interesting idea that could have been made far more engaging.
Posted Saturday, 20 October 2012 See my other reviews
Cairo49
says
Great actors, a really good movie except the whole thing to me was just totally unbelievable. Still enjoyed it but not as good as I thought it would be.
Posted Wednesday, 8 August 2012 See my other reviews
lynnyloo
says
Something different, kept me intrigued. good watch
Posted Tuesday, 7 August 2012 See my other reviews
tere
says
did not enjoy, subtitles as well
Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 See my other reviews
George
says
Great acting, moving story.
Posted Friday, 20 July 2012 See my other reviews
him
says
Never received DVD?
Posted Tuesday, 17 July 2012 See my other reviews
garrett
says
great story and great movie! Robert Duvall and Bill Murray superb as are the supporting actors. Will probably be unwatched by most people, as it not a hyped up blockbuster. Certainly worth watching
Posted Thursday, 12 July 2012 See my other reviews
Diana
says
An unexpected treat. Interesting storyline, revealed slowly; great, understated acting. Haven't enjoyed a movie so much for quite a while. A classic.
Posted Wednesday, 20 June 2012 See my other reviews
Ann E.
says
Slow to get started but well worth sticking with it. Brilliant cast and very well acted but I think a more mature audiance would appreciate it than teenagers or young adults.
Posted Monday, 18 June 2012 See my other reviews
Lissa
says
Now this is story telling! Quite a gem with outstanding performances from Robert Duvall in particular and Bill Murray, with a good supporting cast. Good story with the right amount of balance between serious and amusing. Pretty much perfect in every way.
Posted Sunday, 3 June 2012 See my other reviews
Geoff @GOL
says
An unusual movie, about redemption, secrets, love, guilt, grief. Self denial due to a lost love. Great line; "gossip is the devils radio " Quality acting, bit disappointed in the ending but a good night's entertainment.
Posted Saturday, 2 June 2012 See my other reviews
Johnno
says
Need to stick with the slow pace, but good story. Murray steels the show. Not for the younger set.
Posted Thursday, 31 May 2012 See my other reviews
Mike Brindley
says
'Character-driven' movie with great performances from Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall and Bill Murray - especially Bill Murray, as usual. An old fashioned tale that probably would not get made these days without the stars behind it. The end is something of a let-down, but there's a lot of fun and emotion getting there.
Posted Thursday, 31 May 2012 See my other reviews
Lee
says
Different
Posted Wednesday, 16 May 2012 See my other reviews
Lisa
says
Good cast and story. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it however as the movie got going, I got into it and enjoyed.
Posted Thursday, 10 May 2012 See my other reviews
Otto
says
Great cast, well acted, well filmed and directed, and a moving story. Well worth watching.
Posted Monday, 7 May 2012 See my other reviews
GRoberts
says
Slow and serious, but worth a watch. Beautifully filmed.
Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 See my other reviews
MLV
says
If you want lots of laughs and action, wrong movie. If you want excellent acting, a slow burning, moving story, some humour and with great flavour, right movie.
Posted Saturday, 14 April 2012 See my other reviews
kathy
says
a slow start, eventually got our attention,
Posted Saturday, 7 April 2012 See my other reviews
Pfurball
says
Didn't do much for me
Posted Tuesday, 3 April 2012 See my other reviews
melzy
says
Yawn .... I give movies 20 mins usually ... every time it got to 20 it had a little glimmer of something good so I would stick with it then it started sucking again ... *sigh*
Posted Tuesday, 3 April 2012 See my other reviews
ENello
says
I thought this was great. Low key but intelligent with a wonderful subtle humour.
Posted Wednesday, 28 March 2012 See my other reviews
Ando
says
I really enjoyed this movie, unusual story line.
Posted Saturday, 24 March 2012 See my other reviews
Noel
says
Certainly a bit different to most other movies. It had a bit of humour, (not side splitting laughter but a bit of a smile and a chuckle), a bit of compassion and a bit of sadness. We enjoyed it.
Posted Saturday, 24 March 2012 See my other reviews
Kate
says
A bit different, but really enjoyed this movie.
Posted Wednesday, 7 March 2012 See my other reviews
Lindsay
says
Boring.
Posted Monday, 5 March 2012 See my other reviews
Kevin
says
Excellent film and cast. Great photography and atmosphere.
Posted Wednesday, 22 February 2012 See my other reviews
Joan Gorham
says
Very disappointing. Sad, slow and unbelievable.
Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 See my other reviews
A.P.S.
says
It is.
Posted Sunday, 15 January 2012 See my other reviews
Diane
says
Enjoyable but weak ending
Posted Saturday, 17 December 2011 See my other reviews
jw
says
Yawn. A waste of time and acting talent, very disappointing.
Posted Monday, 5 December 2011 See my other reviews
Doris
says
Good acting,slow moving but worth a watch.
Posted Wednesday, 16 November 2011 See my other reviews
Michael Y
says
Good cast , slow burn of a story , well acted , not really for the family, good for a more "mature" couple to watch!
Posted Saturday, 5 November 2011 See my other reviews
Jan K
says
Exellent move - one of the best I've seen for a very long time. Simple story told beautifully. A little quirky and different. Loved it.
Posted Monday, 31 October 2011 See my other reviews
Miquel
says
Loved this movie. Great actors. Bill Murray is his hilarious best! You need to sit down and watch this movie - don't be doing the dishes while you're watching cause you'll miss stuff...
Posted Thursday, 27 October 2011 See my other reviews
Ross Port Wakefeield
says
Wierd
Posted Wednesday, 26 October 2011 See my other reviews
paige
says
i loved everything about this movie. it was so well acted. a simple story... that you didnt know were it was heading.... directed perfectly. higly recommened.
Posted Friday, 21 October 2011 See my other reviews