Get Low is based on a true account of a 79-year-old Tennessee bachelor who, in the 1930s, publicly staged his own funeral. According to Sony Pictures Classics’ press package, the “classic American yarn” about Felix Bushaloo Breazeale’s funeral is “an American folktale passed down by storytellers for decades, spreading across distance and time to take on a larger-than-life legend.” I’m not familiar with this tale (or with the existence of any great oral tradition in the modern South), but a Google search affirms that Breazeale was profiled in several newspapers in 1938 and invited as a guest on Ripley’s Believe It or Not! on NBC radio the following year. A similar affair was attempted with disastrous results down in Miami in 1992, when one Sophia Petrillo decided to host a living-wake party and put her scatterbrained roommate in charge of the invitations (guess which of the Golden Girls forgot to tell everybody Sophia wasn’t really dead!).
Mr. Breazeale’s sentiment is not crazy—most of us have fantasized about our own funerals at some point—but the characters in Get Low have difficulty wrapping their heads around it. Typical of the writing and pacing in director Aaron Schneider’s film is a line from the funeral director’s assistant (played by Lucas Black), drawn out for so long that sighs from the audience are audible between his pauses: “You wanna be at your funeral. Party. Alive? But. You can’t have a funeral if you’re not. Y’know. Deceased.” This comes somewhere in reel three, after Felix (played by Robert Duvall) has twice pitched his request. The writing is where the trouble starts, but the story’s tiresomeness is also two parts Schneider’s fault. He edited the film as well, and the audience would be obliged if Schneider would trim all the laborious reactions by half. Read the rest of Leah Churner’s review of Get Low.