Get Low is a period drama about an old hermit set in the 1930’s with a mysterious past. The roles are filled with two highly respected actors, Robert Duvall and Bill Murray. A lot of people will watch it just for them, but the good news is there is more than just that to look forward to.
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a 1930’s Tennessee hermit who has lived on his own isolated property for the past 38 years. We get a sense of his personality when he puts up a sign that reads, “No Damn Trespassing, Beware of Mule.” He lives alone, unless you count his mule, which serves as both his best friend and transportation.
Most people of the town nearby know of Felix, he is the recipient of many name-calling and rumors of him run rampant. The opening scene of the film gives us the likely reason why people talk down about the hermit. The scene at the beginning is of a farmhouse on fire and a man running from it, which we presume is Felix.
For obvious reasons, Felix does not venture into town very often. However, he does make an exception to pay respects to his fellow hermit friend who recently passed away. On his visit he gets into a confrontation with a local. The local harasses Felix buy calling him names and throwing rocks at his mule.
Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) is a desperate funeral home owner that is just waiting for people to die, for his business to pick up. Because of the position his business is in, he transforms his assistant, Buddy (Lucas Black), into a salesman to generate new business. Buddy suggests meeting up with Felix to discuss funeral arrangements.
The two go to Felix’s place, who not surprisingly, was upset at first that there was an intruder on his property. As Buddy sits down to talk with him, it becomes clear that Felix is very curious as to what other people have been spreading rumors about. Of course, Buddy did not want to bring up the rumors but Felix insisted firmly. One such rumor was that Felix killed some people in a fist fight. To which is response was, “Is that all?”
When showing someone around his property they mention the beautiful scenery of trees, which his response is, “When you leave things alone, they know what to do.” Without knowing it, Felix metaphorically stated what his entire life has been like up until that point. It was blatant enough of an analogy that even a character in the film pointed it out. Apparently, the director did not want you to miss that connection.
The next day Felix shows up at the funeral home unannounced. Clearly, Frank is very nervous perhaps mostly because he is face to face with the hermit for the first time, but he may also just be excited that he finally has a customer. Felix lists off some arrangements he would like including the peculiar request that he wants to be alive at the funeral. He goes on to reveal why the odd request was made, he wants the people that have stories about him to attend.
Felix then sets out to find a Reverend to speak at his funeral and he has someone in mind. He meets with Reverend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) who seems to have not only known Felix for a very long time but may be the only person that knows what happened on the night of the farmhouse fire. Jackson asks Felix if he has asked forgiveness to the Lord for what he did, which his answer is no. Felix pleads that he has punished himself by living completely alone for the past 40 years but even he knows that is not enough to make up for what he did, whatever that was.
There is no doubt that Felix has some skeletons in the closest. We have no idea if he is a murderer, criminal or something even worse. But we do know Felix wants to set the record straight on what he did. His intentions shift from wanting to hear what other people’s stories about him, to him telling his story to others, the real story about him. We as viewers are just as interested in hearing the truth as the hundreds that gathered to hear it at his funeral party.
Get Low definitely benefits from having two well-seasoned actors. It is likely that both Robert Duvall and Bill Murray sit on most critics’ favorite modern-day actors list. Each is perfectly casted for their role. Duvall masterfully takes the lead role but is careful not to completely steal the show as Murray entertains us with his role as funeral director. Getting to watch both of them performance on the same screen is a treat.
First-time feature director Aaron Schneider gives us a wonderfully shot film, but it should come to little surprise since most of his work previously was cinematography. The 1930’s set looked authentic from wardrobes to interiors of buildings. Luckily, a good portion of Get Low is outside so we get to see beautiful shots of the Tennessee landscape, particularly the scene where he walks through the woods.
There was a lot of build up to the speech that he gives, but once that card is revealed there is not much left in the hand. Unfortunately, it did fail to fully deliver the emotional impact it intended to. But I still think it carried some feeling, we have Duvall to thank for that. I felt like the conclusion was not as good as the entire thing leading up to it, perhaps keeping the idea of not knowing what exactly happened would have been better.
Get Low started off going in an irony direction with the hermit coming to town and wanting to be alive for his own funeral. But it switches to more of a serious and emotional direction about midway through. While the conclusion may have missed a little emotionally, it does not take away from the fact that this is a great film to see.