This Week at the Movies: Get Low



Get Low is not a complete movie. It does not offer us a glorious spectacle of fireworks and satisfying clichés. It follows a very personal search; it exposes us to very personal demons; it guides us through the very personal past of this troubled old man. It is so personal that it distances us. This is the movie’s strongest point (in terms of beauty) and its weakest point (in terms of box office receipts). The cinematography and the old western-style acoustic guitar music gives somewhat of a personable touch to this movie, but overall, this beautifully acted movie is almost ignorant of the existence of an audience.

Get Low follows the last few days in the life of a crabby old man, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), who has lived in self-imposed exile for the last 40 years in the middle of his 300 acres of property. Due to his extreme isolation, there are countless stories floating around about him. Some think of him as the devil, some think of him as a murderer, etc. He’s almost like Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird. When a friend of his dies, it strikes him that his time will be coming soon, too. Bush wants to have a lasting catharsis before he dies, and he decides to have a public funeral party for himself before he actually dies. He wishes for people to come over and tell all the stories and rumors they have heard about him. When the local priest refuses his offer for a funeral party, he enlists the help of a local funeral home. This funeral home is run by Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black) who see an opportunity to finally turn their flagging profits around in this sleepy little town where “no one seems to die.” Quinn especially pursues the funeral party idea aggressively even when Bush starts to have doubts. All the while, we are wondering about Bush’s real past. Things start to get messy when we encounter Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) and Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), two people from Bush’s past. Bush reflects on how the 40 years that he spent in his own isolated prison might not have helped him and he realizes that this funeral party could be his only and final chance for forgiveness, catharsis and satisfaction. At the funeral party, he reveals his demons to us.

Get Low doesn’t have a psychopathic incarnation of Satan as its protagonist. It does not have a war veteran who killed a bunch of civilians as its protagonist. Get Low has a protagonist who experiences such a personal search, drive and pain that it makes it almost impossible for the viewer to relate to it. The range of emotion, justification and action that Duvall indulges in is almost confusing for the viewer. But that’s what makes it beautiful. Get Low is not looking for any sort of empathy from the viewer. It is just a manifestation of how incredibly personal a man’s life really is to said man, and how unimportant or nonsensical it might seem to other people. T

his is not a movie. This is not art. This is something so personal to Felix Bush that no one but Felix Bush can really put a label on it. This is why this movie is going to do terribly at the box office. But it really shouldn’t. I want to scream from the rooftops for people to watch Get Low without being judgmental. So, yes, I’m screaming right now.