Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Feb 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Caught In the Act

Film_getlowSQ'Get Low' Duvall's love song to his profession
One of the most consistently interesting and reliable actors in the movies over the last 40-plus years, Robert Duvall must have found something irresistible in the premise of his new film, Get Low. It's a tall tale about an old backwoods, Depression-era hermit who decides to throw himself a "funeral party" while he's still alive to participate.

As executive producer, as well as star, Duvall emulates his character by staging a sort of cinematic love-feast for himself and the profession he loves. Viewers who have enjoyed Duvall for all these years will be delighted to come to the party. 

Directed by Aaron Schneider from a script by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, Get Low maintains a wistful tone laced with a hint of mystery in the story of a reclusive old cuss about whom much is rumored, but very little is known. The gradually unfolding story of the cantankerous codger provides a muted and involving setting for the rough-cut gem that is Duvall's performance. He acts his heart out beneath his character's taciturn façade, and if we catch him at it a bit too often, and other story elements don't always add up, at least his entertaining performance is its own reward.

As Duvall's character, mountain man Felix Bush explains, to "get low" means to cut the b.s. and get to the point. As Felix, Duvall looks like a refugee from a ZZ Top video, with his long grey beard, cowboy hat, and ever-present rifle. Holed up in a hand-built cabin in the woods for 40 years, he sets tongues to clacking when he hitches up a buggy to his mule and drives into town one day with a roll of cash to pay for a funeral while he's still alive. The town preacher offers him only platitudes, but the proprietor of the town's one funeral parlor, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) is desperate enough for business to go along with Felix's crazy scheme.

Film_getlowFelix is similar to the very first role Duvall ever played in the movies, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird, four decades later. Like Boo,  everyone has heard so many crazy stories about Felix, he's hated and feared by those who don't know the truth of his life. He invites everyone to his "funeral party" to tell a story about him, then sweetens the deal with a lottery: the lucky winner will inherit his virgin timberland property when he's gone. But it's not that Felix has a sudden urge to party down. He's after atonement, and he needs the whole town there to witness it.

You can't exactly say Duvall disappears into his character, but he's fun to watch throughout. Ornery with those who offer him grief, wily with his allies, and courtly with self-possessed widow,  Mattie (Sissy Spacek), the only one left in town who shares any history with him, Felix gives Duvall an opportunity to employ his full arsenal, including dry chuckles, gruff mumbles, and sly asides, communicating much without a lot of long-winded dialogue. It's unfortunate that by the time he gets to Felix's big climactic speech, Duvall delivers it more like an actor would than a reclusive old man shy of the limelight. But otherwise Duvall maintains his character's integrity.

Unfortunate, too, is most of the rest of the story. Simplistically laid out, it traffics in loose threads (a seemingly portentous town bully; an unresolved subplot about stolen money) that turn out to have nothing to do with the story. The byplay between Quinn and his assistant (Lucas Black) is never all that interesting, but Bill Cobbs is a welcome presence in a couple of scenes as an irascible old friend of Felix's, a preacher from Ilinois who shares his aprreciation for straight talk. And through it all, Duvall keeps us involved in the unraveling of Felix's story.

GET LOW ★★1/2 (out of four)

With Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray. Written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell. Directed by Aaron Schneider. A release. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes.
Comments (1)Add Comment
Limited Schtick
written by Freddo, August 26, 2010
Robert Duvall has a limited schtick. What he gives in Get Low we've seen before, and repetition is tiresome. This film begins with great potential to entice: the town's ornery characters; their fears, fabrications and interactions with the hermit; a mule who deserves more screen time but gets little; the main character's mysterious past; great natural setting and period get-up. But sometime after midway, the film stalls out: the citizens become a funeral congregation (their stories about the hermit are hushed); the people function as a soulless and voiceless Greek chorus, more mute than the landscape; and Duvall recites overwritten lines. We're supposed to empathize with the hermit who asks for forgiveness, but the hermit's speech and the films ploy fall flat. This film misses too many great opportunities, only to fizzle into monologue.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Throwing It All Away

Everybody’s for recycling, right? So why are we all doing it wrong? Our reporter gets down and dirty to uncover 10 secrets that will finally make the recycling process make sense

 

Aquarius Calling, Humanity Rising

Aquarius (11th sign after Aries) is the sign of service—serving one another, building community. Aquarius is fixed air, stabilizing new ideas in the world. When new ideas reach the masses the ideas become ideals within the hearts and minds of humanity. Air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) are mental. They think, ponder, study, research, gather and distribute information. For air signs, education and learning, communicating, writing, being social, tending to money, participating in groups and creating sustainable communities are most important. One of the present messages Aquarius is putting forth to the New Group of World Servers is the creation of the New Education (thus thinking) for humanity—one based not on commodities (banking/corporate values) but on virtues. Humanity and Aquarius Aquarius is the sign of humanity itself. We are now at the beginnings of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Humanity (rising). The “rising” is the Aquarian vision of equality, unity, the distribution and sharing of all resources and of individual (Leo) creative gifts for the purpose of humanity’s (Aquarius) uplifting. This is the message in the Solar Festival of Aquarius (at the full moon) on Tuesday, Feb. 3. We join in these visions by reciting the World Prayer of Direction, the Great Invocation.Tuesday’s solar festival follows Monday’s Groundhog Day, or Imbolc (ancient Celtic fire festival) the halfway mark between winter solstice and spring Equinox). The New Group of World Servers (NGWS) during these two days are preparing for the upcoming Three Spring Solar Festivals: 1. Aries Resurrection/Easter Festival (April); 2. Taurus Buddha/Wesak Festival (May); and 3. Gemini’s Festival of Humanity (June). Aquarius and the new and full moons together are the primary astrological influences behind all of humanity’s endeavors. The NGWS are to teach these things, calling and uplifting humanity. Join us everyone. (301)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Job Insecurity

Woman fights for her job in thoughtful, life-sized ‘Two Days One Night’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Jeffrey’s Restaurant

Why quick and friendly service matters at a local diner.

 

If you didn't live in Santa Cruz, where would you be living?

I would live in Kauai because the water is warmer, and I just love it there. Maureen Niehaus, Santa Cruz, Dental Assistant

 

Clos LaChance Wines

Pinot Noir 2012

 

Striking Gold

A taste of Soquel Vineyards’ five gold medal-winning Pinots