Review: Get Low a Sundance Treat

"Fun, but packing an emotional wallop."


Perhaps all we are is promises and stories, our obligations and our shared history. Get Low, the first film of my 2010 Sundance experience, beautifully encapsulates loss, love, comedy, and redemption throughout its 110-minute running time. I'd urge you to go out and see this, but you can't yet, so I'll instead urge you to file it away until the film comes out. It's worth a look. Fun, but packing an emotional wallop, my hope is that Get Low is the directorial project that leads to big opportunities for Aaron Schneider.

Robert Duvall is Felix Bush, a 1930s Tennessee hermit. He's a complicated curmudgeon with a scarred past, until one day he decides to throw himself a party. It's to be a funeral party, and he invites the whole town to come out and tell a story about him. The town is essentially terrified of the little seen Mr. Bush; rumors and hearsay dominate the conversation where bad ol' Felix is concerned. Enter Bill Murray and Lucas Black as funeral home owner and employee -- they are tasked with throwing this heretofore unconsidered idea: the morbid "living funeral." Of course, in the grand tradition of all great films, the story isn't really about any of this at all. It's about the characters and the situation, the context of emotions conveyed against an elegant southern backdrop.

The themes in Get Low are big, and they are worth talking about. What is good? What is evil? And where do you draw the line between right and wrong? Shades of gray dominate the film, partly because the story unfurls deliberately, and partly because there aren't any real heroes or villains here. Just people trying to find a sort of peace. I should also mention that Bill Murray provides much appreciated moments of levity throughout. This is a film that could have been weighed down by it's dramatic core, but instead it comes off as more fable than soap opera.

Lucas Black also exhibits an acting range here that's sure to suit him well for future projects. He underplays everything, to his credit, fleshing out the character in a realistic manner. Black (as Buddy) is a man you've met, a good man, but he's not vamping for the camera. He takes his place alongside two legends, Duvall and Murray, and plays the cards he's dealt.

To find fault with Get Low you have to nitpick a bit. Perhaps the pacing is too deliberate at times, and perhaps Robert Duvall's Felix isn't contextualized enough at the outset. But these aren't items that stick out for long during the film, because hey, there's Bill Murray making you laugh, or there's Bobby Duvall making you think. In an industry where storytelling is left for dead on a semi-regular business it's nice to see that a few bold souls haven't given up the ghost.

Grade: A