May 26, 2017

Robert Duvall, Bill Murray conduct acting clinic in “Get Low”

By Sean O’Connell Get Low (*** out of 4)

Would you want to attend your own funeral?

You’d get to try on that tailor-made suit, smell the ceremonial flowers, enjoy the hymns, and hear all of the juicy stories gathered masses have to share about you now that you’re “gone.”

That’s Felix Bush’s idea in Aaron Schneider’s soft-spoken and introspective “Get Low.”

Robert Duvall, buried beneath 40 years of facial hair, plays Bush, a hermit who has grown tired of the townsfolk speculating on the motivations for his isolation. He hires funeral parlor owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) to throw him a party, where anyone in the neighboring four counties with a Bush story to share can speak their peace. It’s Bush’s true goal, however, to get a difficult story of his own chest so he finally can reconcile with Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) — a kindly woman he once wronged – before time runs out.

“Time” is an important concept to Schneider, who doesn’t rush through his issues and instead lets his actors have more than enough minutes to flesh out their differences.

“Get Low” gets where its going, but the pace allows us more than enough opportunity to appreciate Duvall’s gravity, Spacek’s lingering hurt, Bill Cobbs’ stubborn frustrations, and Murray’s innate ability to light up a dreary room with the turn of a phrase.

“Get Low” trades in small-town dramas, decades-long grudges, poignant memories, broken hearts, and pitch-black gallows humor meant to lighten the mood.

While it’s true Schneider tips his hand very early with a tragic opening scene, so we’re aware of the root of Bush’s emotional troubles, we’re still left waiting for all the puzzle pieces to surface so that the overall picture can become clear. With this ensemble slowly collecting the bits, the journey is always interesting.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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