Cast: Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, Bill Cobbs, and Bill Murray
Directed by Aaron Schinder
Screenplay by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell.
Get Low has a spark for good old fable storytelling but doesn’t keep the flame burning all the way through, leaving you with one of those Hallmark Channel tacked on ending.
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall in another one of his quite and grandiose performances), a legendary and feared hermit in 1930s Tennessee, decides after 40 years of seclusion to pay for a funeral party before he dies. All he wants is for people to come and tell them a story about him. This attracts the likes of funeral parlor Frank Quinn (Bill Murray in another one his great sarcastic roles) and his assistant Buddy (Lucas Black, the kid from Sling Blade all grown up) in creating this very odd once-in-a-lifetime event. Yet, something inside Bush is burning very deeply for him to make amends with local piano teacher Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek). Things are not what they seem for Bush and his funeral party.
The story starts out with miraculous detail to the environment and mood, from the crackling fires and woods that surround Bush’s cabin house to the details of Quinn’s office. Get Low knows its timeline and environment well, but then settles on a story about a guy filled with regret.
Cinematographer Aaron Schneider makes his directorial debut and gives the film that special camera eye treatment, but it feels that all of the first act build up and detail get lost once the ball starts rolling towards its sugary sweet ending. Schneider shows a lot of promise in making it look great and letting the actors try out all their character quirk, but for next time needs to focus on a screenplay that is equal to the visuals.
With each character that is introduced, we think this film will take on an odd, but very surprising look at this town and this man they all fear. A thing or two about this type of grassroots storytelling can be taken from the Cohe Brothers films, since they know when and where to take these mysterious places with odd-ball characters to surprising and well thought out places.
What we do get are two special performances from Duvall and Murray. They are such valuable screen icons now that when the film reaches its half-baked point, they still give it their enigmatic touch and give us a bridge to the end. A monologue that Duvall gives at the climax is tacked on but he adds his own special and fascinating tics to it, making it something quite more powerful than it really is.
Get Low at the end feels like a practice run for Schneider, who shows a lot of visual promise and has the acting talent to help him fulfill it. All he needs now is to find a story that will take him all the way.