Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get Low. A-


After many, many, toilsome months (well, not really), Get Low finally arrived on DVD this week. And, due to my inexplicable tendency to evade a film's theatrical release, I caught it at home last night. This is a movie, with its blend of sharp dry wit, drama, and existential perplexity, that reminded me very much of a Mark Twain story, something he might have written in twenty pages. It's a complicated movie both in terms of its story and its themes, yet it comes across as simple and effortless due to the subtle ways that director Aaron Schneider (who claimed an Oscar a few years ago for his short film Two Soldiers) tells the story. There's a lot of assumptions the viewer is asked to make, which is a pleasant change from the way so many movies spoon feed information to the audience. Robert Duvall plays the film's complicated protagonist, a hermit named Felix Bush whose surreptitious past is the subject of controversy with the people around town. Wondering just what the town's folk really know of him, Felix brings to the attention of the town's funeral director (Bill Murray) and his young assistant (Lucas Black, whose southern accent for once didn't bother me) that he would like to have a funeral in honor of his life. His main wish is for a party, in which anyone may come to tell stories about him. As bait, Felix creates a sweepstakes in which anyone can pay five dollars for the chance of gaining his 300+ acres when he actually does die. It's a win-win situation for everyone, particularly the funeral director, who is need of deaths so he can make money. The performances are stellar, particularly Duvall, who gives one of his top five performances ever. Murray gives a classic Bill Murray performance in which he plays a character who can barely utter a sentence without laying on the sarcasm. This is a strange movie for sure, and also not a perfect one. I found the ending to be anti-climactic simply because we know what to expect. Felix is haunted by his past, which we cannot help but reflect upon throughout the movie after an opening scene of a house burning. Even though the final confession is nicely played by Duvall, we aren't very surprised by his story just because the film has been clueing us in on it the whole way through. Also, when does Felix decide that he will tell the story instead of the people? Get Low is immensely satisfying and enjoyable. It's not trying to be throwback, innovative, or special. It simply has a story to tell and does so.

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