Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011
Ever since Jack Nicholson nailed the aging curmudgeon act in the tenderly measured About Schmidt, most screen oldies have attempted the life reflecting journey towards impending mortality tale; Clint has made it his calling card since Unforgiven, Richard Farnsworth rode his lawnmower into the sunset in Straight Story, Morgan Freeman compiled his Bucket List, and even Get Low co-star Bill Murray did the “what’s it all about” routine in Lost in Translation.
This is the turn of Robert Duvall, seemingly unwashed since we last saw him shuffling down The Road; here he plays Felix Bush, a reclusive, woodland dwelling hermit with no regard for anyone and a figure of fear in the local community. When his own fast approaching death stares him in the face he recruits local funeral directors (Bill Murray and Lucas Black) to host his own departure. The catch is that he wants to be around to set the record straight and give his own eulogy.
Much of the intrigue, the journey if you will, lays in the desire to discover Felix’s secrets and motivations. Why do the townsfolk fear him? Who is the woman in the mysterious picture that he clings to? Will Bill Murray’s funeral director rip him off?
And in all those respects Get Low is an anti-climactic let down that loses momentum very quickly. Our own journey as a viewer isn’t as interesting as we’d hoped it would be at the outset.
So why bother seeing this at all? The simple answer is the performances; Duvall’s face is like a narrative in itself; every line, wrinkle and flicker of the eyes is loaded with pathos. Even when Murray is playing second fiddle you wouldn’t pass up the chance to watch any film featuring him. His double act with the solid Lucas Black offers him the chance to wryly deliver some trademark sardonic one liners – “people are dying everywhere but here” coming from a funeral director, and so on.
Get Low shuffles along like a whimsical breeze of a movie; there are moments of light hearted frivolity that are suddenly and effectively permeated by some genuinely moving melancholy. However, the story never grips or wrings the requisite emotion from such a maudlin plot, so much like Duvall’s character the film shuffles from existence leaving the vague imprint that something was once there, but its not worth recalling.