Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Oct 02nd
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

 

On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Melinda’s

New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”