Robert Duvall is Felix Busch, an eccentric backwoods recluse living in isolation who decides to throw his own funeral party before he dies. In order to pull this off he must hire a mildly sleazy used car salesman type of funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his kind-hearted assistant Buddy (Lucas Black). The goal is to have everyone in town, likely either angered or frightened of the crazy ole hermit, show up and share one personal story about the mysterious Busch who precedes himself with wild tales that have been embellished upon throughout the years. Battling with his own personal demons, Busch attempts to reveal his true past.
Duvall is nothing short of amazing. He easily gives another Oscar worthy performance. His short answers and to-the-point attitude matched his character’s angry scruffy demeanor. Duvall has the ability to strike fear in spite of his age. Emoting knowledge wiser than any college education could provide. The tough scary look masks the appropriate scarred heart becoming instantly likeable and comforting but still maintaining a hard edge.
The story is an interesting concept with a mix of heart and slight quirkiness. I can’t help thinking the picture may have been in better hands with someone like the Coen Brothers directing to help bring out more of that quirky feel from the town and characters. Unfortunately, GET LOW felt like it should have been more fun than it actually was. The cinematography from David Boyd is gorgeous letting the Tennessee scenery breath beautifully and the musical score from Jan A.P. Kaczmarek was well fitting. Visually, director Aaron Schneider captures the scenes allowing the actors to use their space in the landscape. Our journey with Busch was enjoyable but the pacing and editing was slow without warrant. It would have been better serviced with a snappier pace and humor.
The supporting cast does an amazing job but their characters are missing their own purpose in the grand scheme. These great actors were underutilized. Sissy Spacek is excellent as a woman scorned, knowing Busch before he went into hiding and discovering she is more involved than she would like. Bill Cobbs provides a compassionate thoughtfulness as Rev. Charlie Jackson. Lucas Black as Buddy is more of the moral compass in a town full of characters that are mostly good. In fact, everyone pretty much does the right thing leading to the event, which provides a lack of conflict and doesn’t really stand Buddy apart from the rest. The biggest misstep was the use (or lack-there-of rather) of the great Bill Murray. His character seemed to be set up for someone with his own conflicted morality but that was never fully explored leaving much needed conflict and humor under the table. All these characters needed more growth. What did they really learn about themselves? What was it all for? There was no character arc for any of the supporting cast.
Overall, GET LOW was a missed opportunity for a really good film that just didn’t quite come together. All the ingredients were there they just weren’t cooked properly. A decent story about an interesting character by a brilliant actor in Robert Duvall is just enough reason to see the film. But the supporting characters lacked a certain punch that was sorely needed to give the film that higher status. I did like GET LOW. I just wanted to like it more.