Review — Get Low

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Alex Miller, Film, Reviews
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[Reviewed by: Alex Miller]

I finally got a chance to check out the new film Get Low starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, & Bill Murray. I went back and read my trailer review afterwards, and I think the trailer did give a really good idea of what to expect. However, this film did surprise me in a lot of ways and it is probably the best movie I’ve seen in theaters since Inception. Let’s take a look.

Get Low is set back in the 1930’s but it doesn’t try to be a period piece per say. If all I knew about this film was the title I would probably expect it to be one of those lame high school dance competition movies, but that’s neither here nor there. They shot the film in real-life towns that haven’t changed much. In fact, the towns they used are only a couple of hours from me in Georgia. This is good and bad. You definitely get the sense that it is not a set you are looking at. But given the apparent modest budget of the film I don’t know if they were able to do what was necessary to make it convincing. I’m the kind of guy that looks for mistakes in movies. About 30 minutes in I said, “This is a real town they’re in, I wonder if they missed anything”. Well I’m not a historical expert but I did see what appeared to be large plastic plumbing going up the side of a building. I’m not sure if they had that in the 30’s. This is a minor complaint, but more noticeable was the feeling I had that everyone walking around these old towns were an extra. That is because they were in fact extras but it seemed way more obvious than usual in this film for some reason. I really couldn’t tell you why exactly but I just never felt like we were really back in the 1930’s. Luckily it wasn’t that important to the story as it was just a backdrop.

The (true) story is interesting enough. It is essentially a character study of Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) who is an old hermit that comes to town one day and says he wants a funeral service while he’s still alive. It almost turns into a mystery since no one really knows why, including us the viewer. Bill Murray plays Frank Quinn the owner of a troubled funeral home who jumps in to try to make a quick buck. Sissy Spacek plays Mattie Darrow, a recently widowed woman who was a past flame of Felix. The problem with the story is that it is so simple.  I couldn’t help but feel that the movie would have been a lot better, had it been about 15 minutes shorter (taken from the middle). The ending is excellent, so that is not to say I felt let down by the time investment. I just felt that the beginning was good, and much of the middle was just stalling until we got to the end. To be honest it might just be a wonder that they were able to write out such a simple story into a 2 hour movie. In any case, what really lifts the movie is the performances.

Honestly, if they hadn’t managed to get Robert Duvall to play the part, they would have never pulled this movie off. He is absolutely perfect and steals the show despite being a pretty quiet character. He elevated the script and created a character deeper than what was on the page. Look for him to be a frontrunner for another ‘Best Actor’ win come Oscar season. Luckily they had an actress like Sissy Spacek on hand to keep from being completely overshadowed. She goes toe-to-toe with Duvall’s performance and is completely believable. The scenes where both of them are on at the same time, are by far the best in the film. Bill Murray, as usual, is incapable of being not funny. His lines are SO funny that they kind of seem out-of-place in this period drama. I don’t actually know, but I’m almost sure he ad-libbed some of that, or at the very least his lines were re-written specifically with him in mind. I’m sure many who won’t enjoy the dry drama of Duvall’s story will find entertainment in Murray’s lines. Honestly the film needed some comic relief but it really did seem TOO funny at the time to me. This is coming from a guy who considers Bill Murray to be his favorite actor, I just don’t know if it quite fit. It definitely walked a line. I was just unable to suspend my belief that this was anyone other than Bill Murray, and his point in the story was anything other than to make me laugh. In the end, he was just so funny, you really didn’t care if he screwed up the pacing of the dramatic story anyway.

In the end, I was interested the whole time despite some slow parts in the middle. I was very intrigued by Duvall’s character, I laughed, I was moved, and the film was about something important (which I will not ruin here). Honestly, what more can you possibly ask for from a film? If for nothing else, watch it to see the truly incredible performance by Duvall. Don’t go with a big group of friends though, it’s not that kind of movie. Just take a date, a friend, or watch it by yourself when it comes out on DVD to get the full effect. It’s one of those movies where you won’t want a lot of people talking and you’re going to want to actually pay attention. Enjoy!

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