Get Low (2010)

Aaron Schneider’s Get Low is a pithy little movie partly based on folklore surrounding a hermit who wanted a living funeral. The hermit is Felix Bush, a cantankerous old man who has lived isolated from society for a couple of decades. Feeling that his end is near, he arranges his own funeral and plans to attend it, ostensibly to hear everyone’s wild tales that have sprung up about him over the years.

Felix Bush is played by Robert Duvall, an acting veteran at the age of 79. Bush is pretty indistinguishable from Duvall, and whether that’s due to brilliant casting or brilliant acting, it succeeds either way. Full of quiet acerbic wit, Bush is an intriguing character who I was very interested to learn more about.

The supporting cast is just as pleasant. Bill Murray plays the owner of the funeral department that agrees to Bush’s bizarre requests. Murray oozes with avarice, always interested in the best way to make a buck, and essentially married to money since he seems to be the town’s only divorcee. Lucas Black plays his protege, an ethical foil to his incessant greed. The only time I’ve seen Black previously was as “Jeep” in the awful horrible very bad Legion, and I was grateful to see that, when given real material to work with, he held a strong presence on screen.

Sissy Spacek plays one of Bush’s old flames, and her scenes with Duvall are among the movie’s best. Both of these actors have decades of experience under their belts, and seeing them gently sweet talk each other will make you really believe that they have a life time of history between them.

Get Low is also a rural feast for the eyes. The 1930s setting provides a lot of natural beauty, taking us back to a time when a town and the nature around it were much more entwined, a much simpler time.

The problem with Get Low is that it embraces simplicity to a fault.

The premise of a living funeral can only take a movie so far, and although a great deal is built up around Bush’s past, when the reveal finally comes, it can only be described as underwhelming. We hear a couple of rumor mill reasons why Bush had originally gone into isolation throughout the movie, and I only wish that the true story was half as interesting as any of those. Of course, that could be the point of the movie. It certainly seems as though it champions the mundane over the exciting, flat realism over anything fantastical.

Get Low is a brilliantly acted affair set in a time that’s beautiful to visit. The characters are interesting to watch and there are plenty of genuinely funny moments. If that sounds like enough for you, then it’s probably worth watching. If, on the other hand, you enjoy an engrossing story, then you should probably sit this one out. It never tries to evolve past its original premise, and the mundane plot that follows isn’t enough to hold it up.

Final rating: 7/10

–James A. Janisse

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