PARK CITY, Utah — "Get Low’s" opening shot is a great one.
The film’s first shot is of a white clapboard house engulfed in flames. After a moment a man on fire leaps out of one of the second story windows.
Like it’s first moments, "Get Low" grabs you and doesn’t let go.
"Get Low," tells the story of Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a hermit in a 1930’s small Tennessee town. For 40 years, Felix has lived apart from a town that doesn’t want him. Felix is a local legend- everyone has a story about him, none of them any good. After an exile of seeming-contentment, Felix emerges and commissions a funeral party for himself from a slick funeral home director, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his young prot©g© (Lucas Black). Felix tells Quinn that he wants a party where the locals can come out and tell all their stories about him. To get everyone to show up, Felix proposes a lottery with the winning family getting his valuable plot of land once he dies. Beyond his party preparations, Felix contends with the return of his former love Mattie (Sissy Spacek).
Staring:Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black
I’m not sure anyone else could have played Felix Bush other than Robert Duvall. Felix is like a walking tall-tale and while you need a larger than life figure to capture that aspect you also have to keep the character grounded. Duvall is, simply put, brilliant. He deftly captures Felix’s guilt and fear of the secret that has kept him in solitude for 40 years, while effortlessly representing a man who small children grow up telling stories about. Duvall, often carrying a shotgun slung over his shoulder, is both menacing and heartbreaking as it becomes apparent what a lonely life Felix has led. Look for Duvall to be heavily involved in the discussion next awards season.
Duvall is well matched by the film’s impressive supporting cast. Bill Murray is excellent and brings a layer of melancholy to his fast-talking and funny funeral director and Lucas Black puts in a solid turn as a young man frequently uncomfortable with what others around him are doing.
The screenplay by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell is well structured and paced and builds to a highly satisfying scene, where Felix tells Mattie and the rest of the town the secret that has kept him alone for the past 40 years.
Aaron Schneider’s debut feature (he won the 2004 Oscar for best short film) is an auspicious beginning. Schnieder’s deft handling of the script and his ability to cull great performances from his strong cast suggest a more experienced touch.
In the end it all comes back to Duvall. "Get Low" once again is a reminder of his incredible consistency. He has always had a great instinct at picking good material and "Get Low" is no exception. Trust Robert Duvall’s judgment, this is a good one.
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