PLOT: A loner in the 1930s rural South approaches a funeral home director to plan his funeral after 40 years of solitude. The only hitch is that he wants the funeral to take place while he's still alive.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is for fans of subtle, understated humor and emotionally sincere drama. I'd say it's aimed for a more adult audience, but really, it's for anyone who can appreciate a strong cast and the art of storytelling.
EXPECTATIONS: I'm a huge fan of the cast so my expectations were high. The trailers made it seem quirky enough to be entertaining for its 100 minute running time, but also dramatic enough to please fans looking for a little of both. I was looking for just the right blend of drama and humor.
Robert Duvall as Felix Bush: Duvall is absolutely brilliant as the loner in this film. He knows how to play each scene, mining the silences for their comedic value as well as their dramatic purpose. It's difficult for me to think of too many times where Duvall has made me laugh, but his sense of timing in the movie is impeccable. And on a more serious note, no one plays guilt-ridden quite like this man. It's such a fully-realized character brought to life through Duvall's portrayal. Score: 9
Lucas Black as Buddy: Black's role in the movie is downplayed in the trailer, but he brings a conscience to the movie. He's funny when he needs to be, but most importantly, he brings the emotional sincerity to the film. I wasn't familiar with much of this work before walking into this, besides that God awful movie Legion, but he proves his dramatic capabilities in this film. Score: 8
Bill Murray as Frank Quinn: There's already Oscar buzz surrounding Bill Murray for this role and it's not hard to see why. Sure, he centers the comedy in the movie, but he plays it for all it's worth. He delivers the laughs, but he also serves a greater purpose. At certain points in the movie, he feels like the devil on your shoulder but I could never outright hate him. To say that he serves as a sort of antagonist is to do the character a great disservice. There are times when he lets his guard down to give a glimpse of the vulnerable to offset the greediness, but let's face it, he's much more fun in his devilish ways. Score: 9
Sissy Spacek as Mattie Darrow: Spacek is absolutely engrossing in the role of Mattie. Her life is filled with heartache and tragedy, but that never becomes the defining characteristic in her portrayal. Her overwhelming kindness and good nature through it all makes her an absolute pleasure to watch. She's never given much comedy to deal with, but what she lacks there, she makes up for in drama. Spacke's Mattie is a kind soul if ever there was one. Score: 8
TALKING: The characters are so beautifully written in what they do and don't say. There's an authentic voice to the rural South in the 1930s as dictated through these main characters. Duvall's Felix is a soft-spoken man of few words, but when he does speak, he absolutely commands the screen. But there's also something to be said about the comedy of the film. It's pleasantly understated in its language and its delivery. Bill Murray is the closest it comes to an over-the-top character, but his Frank is truly larger than life so it's easily forgiven. Still, the talking is beautifully complemented by the silence. This movie knows where to be quiet in just the right times, which is sometimes even more valuable than words. Score: 9
SIGHTS: The location and time period of the film is very much a part of this movie. You'll be hard pressed to find many period pieces that don't deliver when it comes to to the sights. It's all about the costumes and Get Low is no different. It's not gaudy in its representation of the time, but it certainly feels authentic. However, just as important as the costumes, are the other accessories such as the cars and the buildings as well as the landscape. The accessories are so delicately placed that it just feels right. It never detracts from the story or pulls focus, it just feels like home. The same must be said about the landscape. It's absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, but at the same time, it never distracts. Score: 9
SOUNDS: The music of the film should be divided into two categories: the score and the music. The score is powerful upon viewing, but not terribly memorable when I left the theater. At times, it felt like it guided the emotions of the movie and other times, it sounded kind of like the score of Brokeback Mountain with some fiddles thrown in. It doesn't count against it, but it doesn't really add to the movie either. The music is a genuine representation of the time and as such, it's difficult to find fault with. It simply anchors the movie in the time period, but doesn't do much else. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: There really are a ton to choose from. Obviously, the ending is very powerful, but the scene where Mattie reunites with felix at his home. It gives us a glimpse into what might have been without being soap-operatic. Also, in this movie's fashion, it offers a little humor before derailing us with the tragic.
ENDING: The ending has a semi-big reveal which audiences may or may not like. It certainly tells a lot about Felix before giving a very definitive sense of closure. Still, I couldn't help but be sad to see some of these characters go before the credits rolled.
QUESTIONS: What's with Frank's drinking problem? Is it just something about him? It felt like it was going to serve a more dramatic purpose, but never really came to fruition. It doesn't distract, but it was just one of those things I couldn't help thinking.
REWATCHABILITY: I'd probably wait till it came to DVD, but definitely. It was emotionally exhausting for me, but ultimately, rewarding. I just need time to get back on my feet before I watch it again.
At the heart of Get Low is a passion for its characters and a passion for storytelling. When Felix begins to plan his funeral he tells Frank, "invite everyone that has a story to tell about me." That's the heart of this movie. The idea that these people aren't just actors playing a part or characters meant to be watched for 90-some minutes at a time. These are fully realized beings. It's that mentality that makes Get Low what it is. It's certainly not for everyone. I won't even pretend that it's a crowd-pleaser, but it does have something to offer for film-goers. It's easily one of the most genuine and emotionally sincere films that I've seen in quite some time. This is not only due to its characters, but its pride in the telling of its story. Personally, I've always had a passion for storytelling. That's why I became a writer. That's why Get Low is such a refreshing change of pace. It clearly puts substance over style which, in a world where movies like Avatar become record-breakers, is something rare. But Get Low knows it'll never be a blockbuster, but it seems content in just being. It seems at peace with being a story more than it is a spectacle. These ideas are brought to life by an incredibly talented cast, but credit must also be given to the material they work with. There is a seamless transition from comedy to drama throughout the movie. No, I'm not referring to the "dramedy" genre which blurs the lines between the two genres. The juxtaposition between the comedy and drama is part of what makes this movie work so well. It's the kind of complexity that real life has to offer. It's this understanding that brings Get Low to life, making it both hilarious and heartfelt.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10