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REVIEW Outstanding cast elevates Get Low beyond modest dramatic elements

September 21, 2010

Based on a true story, “Get Low” is the tale of a 1930s Tennessee hermit with a secret he wants to get off his chest before he dies.
So Felix Bush plans his own living funeral, a tri-county event at which his worldly goods will be given away and the record will be set straight…in order that he can finally rest in peace when the time comes.
An outstanding cast elevates the story beyond the relatively modest dramatic elements of the yarn itself. Robert Duvall is outstanding as the cantankerous mountain man around which town gossip and tall tales swirl. Bill Murray sprinkles a masterful dollop of dry, perfectly measured humor to his supporting role as the funeral director commissioned to stage the event. Sissy Spacek is Felix’s old flame, nursing an old romantic wound.
Duvall has portrayed dozens of colorful movie characters and coots over the past five decades, and he makes Felix look, sound and act like a naturally aged composite of some of his greatest creations. It’s as if the swaggering lieutenant colonel in “Apocalypse Now,” the Indian-fighting cattle wrangler from “Lonesome Dove” and the washed-up country singer in “Tender Mercies” all finally came home to roost behind one long, scrappy, scraggly beard.
Spacek seems quite at home in “Get Low”’s wooded hills and winding hollers, which look a lot like the backdrop of many scenes from “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” in which she memorably portrayed young Loretta Lynn.
The Oscar-winning actress imparts a finely nuanced Southern elegance to the pivotal part of Mattie Darrow, who long ago left rural life---and Felix---for the refinements of civilization.
And Murray…well, he almost steals the show as the city-slicker undertaker who at first sees Felix as his ticket to a big payday, but later comes to understand the deeper significance of the event he’s been asked to stage and promote. Lucas Black, who 14 years ago played the little boy, Frank, in “Sling Blade,” is instrumental to moving the story along as the funeral assistant, a young father and husband who wants to do the right thing for his eccentric client.
The specter of death hangs heavy over this tender tale of romance and mystery. But that never dampens the spirit of the performances, which positively sparkle with warmth, charm and dimensions of character that the actors coax from quiet moments, small gestures and gentle tones of conversation. There’s almost no shouting, only one gunshot (and that’s a warning fired into the air) and a single physical altercation that’s over almost as quickly as it begins.
This is a tender, folksy character study---a rarity these days in Hollywood---with an uplifting message about the suffocating burden of guilt, the power of forgiveness and a love that bridges life and death. See it before it quietly drifts away.

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