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This week:
Get Low

Filthy says:
"Get less boring, please."

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.

Apparently hermitry 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.

Actually, Duvall 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 southern folks.

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. Two Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Caryn James of Newsweek

Going the Distance : "Finally! A freshromantic comedy. Irresistible!"

Filthy's Reading
Charles Portis - Norwood

Listening to
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men?


To Be or Not to Be