There's not much
to Get Low, an 1920s Ozark tale starring Robert Duvall
and Bill Murray. The flick is stately as shit and all done up
period-style like it's already wearing its tux to the Oscar.
It's got big names, like Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and perennial
statue-bait Robert Duvall. But the story is dull, the characters
aren't deep or interesting, and the pacing is as slow as my
grandmother crawling around her mobile home, clutching her chest
while she looks for her heart medicine. She knew we liked to
hide those pills in the shag carpet.
Duvall plays a hermit
on the outskirts of a hillbilly town. He's sequestered himself
for forty years, long enough for the townsfolk to turn him into
a Boo Radley-like boogeyman. I guess, just like the one he played
a few decades ago. Everyone 's heard a spooky story about the
grizzled hermit. After a brush with death, Duvall decides it's
time to out his affairs in order, primarily by planning his
funeral. The thing is, he wants to have the funeral before he's
dead. And he wants all the people who don't know him to come
and tell the stories they've heard.
is lucrative. Duvall has a fat wad of cash he shows to the local
minister when he asks for his premature funeral. Murray plays
the owner of a failing funeral home that is willing to take
on the ornery Duvall and his eccentric requests. The old man
wants it to be a party with food and music for anyone who will
come. He wants a raffle to give away his 300 acres and all its
valuable timber. He wants a minister he knew 40 years earlier
from Illinois to stand up and speak for him.
isn't interested in hearing the stories of the townfolk. What
he needs is to unburden himself of the secret he's been carrying
for forty years. The secret is so big and shameful it's the
reason he's locked himself away.
Murray is a slippery
character straight from central casting. At first, Murray doesn't
give a donut's nutsack about Duvall. Not in the beginning, anyway.
He just wants to get his hands on the fat ball of cash. As these
stories go, though, and in Harper Lee style, Duvall is revealed
as much more human and frail then everyone is supposed to think.
The movie's weakest
character is Murray's assistant, played by Lucas Black. He's
a young guy, too honest to sell Duvall anything the old man
doesn't need, which is counterproductive to Murray's business.
The problem is, the guy is a total, tired-ass cliche. He sounds
and acts like all southern idealists who only exist in movies.
He has a hot wife and a cute baby, goes to church and he only
does good and follows his moral compass. There are no demons,
no conflict and no soul behind his eyes. That pretty much describes
everyone I never want to get stuck in a bomb shelter with.
Everyone in Get
Low comes across as a thinly-written secondary character
in a CBS miniseries. The setting is grimy and gray like I imagine
the southern poor looked like ninety years ago. Recreating something
from a bunch of photographs is easy. What's a hell of a lot
harder is inventing unique characters. The people, though, aren't
as rich in detail. Murray is supposed to be the most interesting,
but he's just a soft-hearted slickster with a bottle of hooch
in his drawer. Duvall's gruff loner has no surprises; he's what
someone who spends no time around real gruff old guys would
think up and write. Sissy Spacek plays an old flame of Duvall's,
but she too has nothing unique or interesting about her.
The movie plods like
a fetal-alcohol-syndrome child in jackboots. The ending is inevitable:
that Duvall will die after he unburdens himself. Given that,
his big confession better be pretty fucking amazing. It's not.
It's mildly interesting, but not worth the build up. Duvall
gets sick a lot, which is some heavy-handed foreshadowing of
his inevitable death. The only way to be more obvious is beat
the shit out of him with a shovel.
If the confession
can't be incredible, the journey better be. It's not. The movie
goes from beginning to end without daring to upset its stately
manner with a surprise or a twist. Anything unexpected would
have been welcome, even some of that M. Night Shymalan bullshit.
Hell, some aliens, or a monster in the woods who was really
us would have been a delight.
All the performances
are standard. Each character was written, directed and played
with an air of class that's meant to net some gold come February.
They are suffocating in their formality and the narrow range
of the performances. They are more like exhibits in a museum
than people. Or examples of how veterans actors would play generic
Get Low isn't
a story, it's hardly a movie. It's a bunch of people trying
to win golden dildos in the museum. All it needs is a heart,
a soul, less stuffiness and better characters to be worth watching.
to tell Filthy Something?