Monday, August 23, 2010

To the window, to the wall...

Did you really think I was going to be able to review Aaron Schneider's Get Low without referencing Lil' Jon? Come on.

Robert Duvall stars as Felix Bush, a feisty man who's relegated himself to a life of rural solitude for the last 40 years in 1930s Tennessee. Recognizing that before too long, his life will be over and he will not have settled his affairs, he asks the preacher in the nearby town to arrange a funeral for him. His request is denied because, despite the preacher's insistence, Bush will not atone to God for his sins. Overhearing this, Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black) tells his boss at the funeral home, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), that they have to potential to earn Bush's 40 years' worth of savings if they can provide him the type of service he desires. The catch being that Bush wants to host the funeral party while he is still alive, so that he can attend and hear all the fables that have been invented about him. What follows is both a quirky journey of Robinson and Quinn trying to acquiesce to all of Bush's unusual requests, and an upwelling of secrets from his past that get revealed in interactions with his former girlfriend Mattie (Sissy Spacek) and old friend Reverend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs).

Knowing very little going into the movie, I admit I expected a more comic journey, with Duvall and Murray perfectly poised as actors to portray old salts competing in levels of crotchetiness. Instead it was mostly a "watch Robert Duvall do a great job at acting" experience, which people have been able to do for some 50-odd years now. The story is fairly simple by the time the first act is out of the way. The final exposition of what secrets are hidden in Bush's past is neither surprising nor very spectacular, except perhaps to Bush, Mattie, and Charlie.

While Get Low is a fine film, I have to admit that it is a bit underwhelming upon reflection. The acting is great, but the story is neither compelling enough nor treated with enough flair to be that memorable. With a different director or writer involved, I am sure that the tale of a hermit's living funeral party with this same impressive cast could be more interesting and endearing than it ends up in the actual iteration. Good intentions, with a decently enjoyable outcome, but one that is lacking, in the end.

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