Uplifting Get Low Gets High Marks
- Monday, August 16, 2010
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: July 30, 2010 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic material and brief violent content)
Run Time: 103 min.
Director: Aaron Schneider
Actors: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, Bill Cobbs, Gerald McRaney, Scott Cooper
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) has a nagging desire to clear the air about his own reputation. The hermit, who has stayed largely out of sight for several decades, wants to stage a funeral—his own—at which all the townspeople will share stories about Felix.
That's the premise of Get Low, an uplifting story of guilt, repentance and reconciliation that stands head and shoulders above most 2010 films. It's a low-key work that is profound in its simplicity—an oasis amid the meaningless fare that always dominates the choices at the multiplex, but never more so than during the summer months.
Felix emerges from isolation early in Get Low, but it takes most of the film's 103 minutes for him to emerge from the emotional cocoon he's built around himself. Tired of the ominous looks and threatening gestures made toward him whenever he heads into town, Felix visits Rev. Horton (Gerald McRaney) to inquire about a funeral service—his own. Legends about the long-bearded man have grown up around him during the years he's stayed mostly hidden from the public, and he's tired of enduring suspicious looks and derisive comments from the locals. By throwing a funeral for himself, he'll be able to hear the stories about himself and finally get a picture of why people fear him. Presumably, he'll be able to clear the air, although he never directly states that as a goal.
Horton has heard about Felix's past and challenges him to seek forgiveness from God. "I've paid," Felix responds. Horton tells him, "You can't buy forgiveness. It's free, but you do have to ask for it." Another pastor, Rev. Jackson (Bill Cobbs), tells Felix to ask for forgiveness from those he's hurt.
Both men are concerned with Felix's soul and want him to get right with God, but the local funeral home director, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), is interested in manna. The dearth of deaths in town has Quinn on the verge of fiscal ruin, so when an employee, Buddy (Lucas Black), brings Felix's situation to his attention, Quinn jumps. Looking to get a piece of Felix's "hermit money," Quinn deputizes Buddy as a sales representative and sends him out to reel Felix in. "Foot in the door. Establish trust. Then drop the hammer," he instructs Buddy.
Get Low takes its time in revealing the past sin that haunts Felix, and which has led him into seclusion. Its remedy focuses more on public confession than it does on private—don't expect to see Felix pray a "sinner's prayer"—but Felix's climactic confession shows him taking a big step toward full repentance before God. While the film doesn't answer all the questions viewers might have about Felix's spiritual experience, it suggests hope rather than despair for Felix's eternal state.
The film's pleasures come mainly through its acting—another strong performance from the reliable Duvall, plus knockout support from Murray. Sissy Spacek, as a widow who knows something about Felix's past, adds dignity to the film, which knows not to pile too many back stories and subplots onto its simple tale of mercy and forgiveness. But Get Low also delivers behind the camera, as former cinematographer Aaron Schneider (Simon Birch) easily transitions into the role of director, leaving the film's look in the capable hands of David Boyd (Kit Kittredge: An American Girl). Adding to the package is an outstanding soundtrack that includes Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas.
Get Low is the best kind of film—one of excellent craft, but also one with an important message that goes down easy even as it provokes reflection. It's entertaining, even lighthearted at times, but never flip or condescending toward its rural characters, including the pastors. Given a chance, Get Low will send you out of the theater on a high.
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- Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain; "g-dd-mn"; "son of a b-tch"; "a-s"; "d-mn"; "bulls-it"; a few uses of "hell"; scatological terms.
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: Whiskey is shared; a scene of smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: A suggestive comment from a husband toward his wife; Felix says he "had a go" with a woman long ago.
- Violence/Crime: A man shoots off a gun to frighten some children, one of whom vomits; Felix retaliates against verbal and physical abuse; a warning gunshot whizzes past a man's head; a man recounts an attempted murder.
- Religion: Gossip is said to be the devil's work; a pastor asks if Felix has made peace with God; after Felix says, "I've paid," the pastor replies that he can't buy God's forgiveness, which is free but has to be asked for; another pastor says he's talked to God about Felix for years, and God has told him that Felix is too much trouble; he asks Felix whether he's sought forgiveness from those he hurt; told to ask Jesus for forgiveness, Felix says he never did anything to him; free will is "not all it's cracked up to be"; Felix says that in the past he rejected advice to seek forgiveness, but now seeks it; an image of the afterlife; a graveside funeral scene.
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