Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Movie review: Get Low
Get Low, Robert Duvall's latest production, is a rural American folktale.
Gruff and mysterious Felix Bush (played by Duvall) emerges from a 40 year hermitage in the Tennessee backwoods to make arrangements for his eventual interment, which he senses is near. Bush enlists the help of a fast-talking Chicago undertaker, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his assistant, Buddy (Lucas Black) to plan a funeral which Bush insists be held while he is still alive. Along the way, he encounters an old flame, Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) and a long-estranged friend, Reverend Gus Horton (Gerald McRaney). As the story progresses, shadows from Bush's past are revealed.
Disregarding the favorable reviews the film has received, in the end, I think it fails. With all due respect to writers Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell, and Scott Seeke, I find fault mostly with the script. None of the characters, frankly, are believable. They lack development; their motivations are obscure and confused. For example, Buddy, the assistant undertaker, seems to take filial interest in Bush. But viewers are never given a reason for this interest; Buddy's past is never revealed.
[Note to readers: An anonymous commenter pointed out that brief reference to Buddy's past is made during the narrative. I stand by my point, however.]
Some plot elements are introduced, but never explained or developed further. For example, at one point, one of the principal characters is knocked unconscious by unknown assailants. We never learn precisely who are the perpetrators, the crime is never solved, nor scarcely alluded to: a clumsy device, that seems unnecessary.
Further and most egregious, the terrible secret in Bush's past, the history upon which the story is constructed, when fully revealed is nothing all that sinister. Run-of-the-mill love triangle stuff. Certainly a lot less than all the ominous, haunted expressions, and the vague, enigmatic dialog would indicate. (On the other hand, maybe I've been reading too much Cormac McCarthy, heh.)
Any flick that includes Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek has, at least, the raw materials prerequisite to success. And between them, they nearly pull it off with just the strength of their performances. Duvall's culminating soliloquy would be mesmerizing were it not sabotaged by the lack of story. (I'll refrain from describing it... wouldn't want to reveal any spoilers.)
Bill Murray did an adequate job. Don't get me wrong; I love the guy. But I'm beginning to believe he won't succeed in his jump from comedy to drama. (Lost in Translation, anyone?) Lucas Black's performance was adequate as well.
The plot line is supposedly based on a true story from the 30s. Be that as it may, the clumsy script demanded too many indulgences, too much suspension of disbelief. Such a pity. I had high hopes.