Get Low: I’ll Take It!

Set in a small town in 1930’s Tennessee, Get Low has the title of a comedy but actually, it’s…not? Man, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to follow Dave Brockie!

A friend of mine once put it this way, “The best part about fall is that movies start to feel like full meals again.”

All right, all right, that friend’s name is “me,” but the reason I say it every year is because it’s true. It was right about this time three years ago when I wrote RVANews’s first film review (and, arguably,* its first feature). After another summer of throwaway movies, the feeling I have about Get Low is a lot like how I felt then about 3:10 to Yuma — this film isn’t perfect, it probably won’t win a lot of awards, but it sure did feel good to watch.

Still relatively new to directing, Aaron Schneider must have found it difficult to control his glee when Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray (!) signed on to play the lead and supporting roles. Without the intimidating talents of those three, this beautifully shot film would have fallen completely flat. Pretty pictures have managed to save weak stories lots of times, but even after a solidly intriguing start, Get Low’s story becomes so limp that it would slip through most directors’ fingers like a wet noodle.

However, this season is going to be a good one for movies (good LORD, have you seen the trailer for Black Swan??), so I am feeling generous towards all. So it had a noodley story! Who cares? Cinematographer David Boyd fairly outdid himself, and Schneider kept things at a poignant pace.

Get Low, though, is an actor’s film, for sure. It drops us into the life of a 1930’s Tennessee hermit named Felix Bush, complete with big frigging beard, stubborn mule, oil lamps, and loathing. He’s got all these secrets that we’re supposed to be interested in, but after awhile you don’t care too much about them. Instead, you’re cruising along, watching this guy go about arranging a living  funeral with funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray). You’re still hanging on, but probably not intrigued, when former flame Mattie (Spacek) is all upset about something mysterious. But then bam!l The credits roll and you realize with a jolt that you’ve been watching a movie. That’s Robert Duvall up there on the screen, being all genius. That cabin he keeps clunking around in? It’s a set somebody built. The hurt in Spacek’s eyes, the confusion of Lucas Black — it all seems so real!

In fact, I’m not sure when the last time was that my brain had such a hard time shaking itself out of its disbelief suspension. Maybe There Will Be Blood? And folks, we’ve got a movie that can be compared, however remotely, to There Will Be Blood. Things are happening, little by little!

Like Yuma, I doubt Get Low will cause much Oscar buzz. Maybe an actor nom for Duvall (he is of the lifetime achievement age, after all) or some cinematography credit where it’s due, but if history serves, this film will end up being obscured by others that are much better and a few that are much worse. If you’re like me, you’ll still remember it as the movie that got 2010 rolling, and brothers and sisters, it sure needed to get rolling.

*And BELIEVE me, there have been arguments.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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