High Marks for Get Low 

Duvall, Murray and Spacek in one of the year's best

Robert Duvall picked up his golden statuette in 1984, Sissy Spacek three years earlier. And by this time next year, Bill Murray will have his. His performance in Get Low secures his slot as an odds-on favorite for a supporting actor nod come Hollywood's silly season.

Trace Murray's film career and your head may spin. Post-Saturday Night Live, Murray chewed up the scenery and most of the Canadian woods in Meatballs. Then of course there was Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, What About Bob and Groundhog Day. But along the way, there were also some wonderful gems: The Razor's Edge (Murray's first turn at something serious) and Ed Wood. And don't forget his acclaimed run with indie director Wes Anderson: Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. In 2003, Murray's turn in Lost In Translation was his springboard into the role of critics' darling. But Get Low may be his best yet. Not only does he deliver one of the best performances of the year, but he holds his own with film royalty--Duvall and Spacek.

As tall a tale as Get Low is, the story is based in truth, or at least as much truth as the dark, secretive hills of Tennessee allow. Legend has it that in the 1930s, Felix Bush (Duvall) lived as a hermit with his beloved mule deep in the Smoky Mountains. One day, completely out of the blue, Bush made his way to a funeral parlor in town and asked for a "living funeral."

It's a plot twist straight out of Tom Sawyer, but the characters in Get Low could easily fit into a twice-told Twain tale. Their dialogue is priceless.

Bush, contemplating his own funeral: "It's about time for me to get low."

Mattie Darrow (Spacek): "Gossip is the devil's radio."

Mortician Frank Quinn (Murray): "I once sold 26 of the ugliest cars ever made one December in Chicago with the wind blowing so far up my ass I was farting snowflakes in July."

This is the first feature for director and editor Aaron Schneider, and it could be considered a masterwork for someone 30 years his senior. Schneider is not afraid to trust the shadows when framing his scenes, beckoning the audience for a closer look. Put Schneider on a short list of filmmakers whose best work is in front of him.

Get Low is as authentic as it is entertaining. Costume designer Julie Weiss perfectly balances the haves and the have-nots of 1930s Tennessee. And the soundtrack is tons of fun with the likes of "If I Didn't Care" and "My Blue Heaven" joined by a new recording of "Lay My Burden Down" by Alison Krauss.

Get Low is a wonderfully original American yarn. And it burns like an aged blend of Tennessee tobacco with a pungent taste of drama cut by a sweet aroma of comedy.

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