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film review: Get Low

film review: Get Low

Get Low is one of the treats of the summer movie season, a modest film that offers ample rewards, not the least being the opportunity to watch wonderful actors at work. The setting is Tennessee during the Great Depression. Robert Duvall is well cast as a man who’s lived as a hermit for the past forty years. One day he turns up in town and asks the local preacher to hold his funeral—while he’s still alive. Over the course of the film we learn what has brought him to this moment, and what drove him away from his friends and neighbors so many years ago.

In less expert hands, this part could have become a caricature. Instead, Duvall actually—

—underplays, making Felix Bush a credible character—taciturn, wary, but human. (Can he really be coming up to his 80th birthday next January? It’s hard to believe.) Bill Murray is equally fine in a wry performance as the owner of the local funeral parlor, who’s desperate for business. He, too, is a complex fellow, and Murray paints a wonderful portrait, full of color and nuance. The two stars are surrounded by solid actors like Sissy Spacek, Bill Cobbs, and Lucas Black.

The screenplay, by Chris Provenzo and C. Gaby Mitchell, based on a story by Provenzo and Scott Seeke, was inspired by a real-life event, but it’s been fleshed out with skill and taste. It’s just a vignette, a slice of life, really, but the story doesn’t seem protracted or contrived. Much credit has to go to first-time feature director Aaron Schneider, a longtime cinematographer who clearly bonded with this material. This is as sure-footed a job of filmmaking as you’re likely to see all year.

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