Anyone who’s read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird has spent at least a moment musing over the intriguing hermitage of Boo Radley; through the course of the novel, Scout and her brother recount countless childhood legends regarding the man’s supposedly tragic past, including everything from child abuse to stabbing. So is the nature of Get Low’s protagonist, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a man who, after spending forty years hidden inside a shack in the woods, wants a living funeral party where he can hear the many legends that have grown around his life. Unlike Boo Radley, Felix’s past is legitimately spotted with tragedy—a truth slowly and cryptically revealed through interactions with Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek). After allowing this secret to consume his life for many years, Felix makes arrangements with Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), his funeral director, to allow time for confession at his party. This film is a spectacular piece of work that invites audiences to mull over their own inner-demons—is at once a tale of redemption and condemnation—while entreating them to a lovable cast of characters. It’s a promising debut for director Aaron Schneider which leans more towards the literary side of entertainment–a side rarely glimpsed within Hollywood.
Get Low doesn’t quickly show its hand like other redemption films, (such as this year’s My Own Love Song)—it’s a slow burn to Felix’s revelation, and we’re never quite sure of the source of his lament until the film’s close. This will undoubtedly put off the more ADHD crowds, yet the characteristic antics of Bill Murray and abrasive charm of Robert Duvall’s character is more than enough to keep audiences immersed and amused. The film’s only weakness is Lucas Black’s character, Buddy—Frank’s assistant and salesman at the funeral home; Buddy is a cold fish who appears shoehorned in to play an all-around good guy and foil to Felix’s legendary badass. There’s even a point late in the film where Robert Duvall states “I forgot that for every one of me, there’s one of you in the world”, highlighting his role as Felix’s opposite. His lazy dialogue, periodic absence, and almost utter lack of action begs the question of whether the film would be any different were he removed entirely. This isn’t to say he’s a detriment, only that Buddy provides padding where none is necessary—is a charming buffer between the film’s better developed, more intriguing characters.
The closer we draw to Felix’s revelation, the clearer it becomes that he views his secret as significantly worse than whatever the townspeople have made of him—that he effectively molded himself into a public monster because he privately viewed himself as one. By confessing his sin, he necessarily condemns himself in the public’s eye, but redeems himself within. Though his hermitic lifestyle and tragic past sound fantastically dramatic, they’re elements of a story all too familiar; who truly lacks secrets hidden from the world—things so dark people hide them deep within the forest of their hearts? It’s a tale we can all relate to, and one delightfully peppered with the humor of Bill Murray, charm of Sissy Spacek, and gruff, grandpa-like demeanor of Robert Duvall. You’ll walk away from this one with the childhood awe of being told a great bedtime story, tinged by the melancholy of inner-demons collected in adulthood. Out of the sixteen films I’ve watched in the past six days, this is my absolute favorite, hands down. Don’t miss it.