Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Low -- Get It

As I am a big fan of just about anything Robert Duvall is in, and as I had read about the film, I was glad to see the GET LOW was a choice in the REDBOX Friday night when I went by looking for something to watch.  I also picked out MORNING GLORY, which was cute but forgettable.  GET LOW, on the other hand, is a small masterpiece.

Can we pay for our own sin?  Can we live without forgiveness?  Can we resist forgiveness and grace when others are so willing to give it?  These I think are the questions that the filmmakers managed to pose with a story that could have been taken to other realms.  Duvall, looking very old and worn out but still vital, plays a man who has chosen to live as a hermit for over 40 years.  He has a great deal of land and a serviceable cabin, and does quite well without people, thank you.  Well, not really.  If nosy boys come snooping around his property, he's likely to scare them off with a gun, as he will do to adults as well.  Something has made him recede to the backwoods, and we have to watch the whole movie to know why.

It's the 1930s (or maybe the '20s, I wasn't quite sure).  There isn't a hint of the Depression, and the period costumes and buildings are well done.  The only thing that seemed unreal to me was how accepting everyone was of the Black preacher who has a past with Felix Bush, Duvall's character.  However, it is made clear the preacher, Charlie Jackson, lives in Illinois, not the South. 

As the story progresses, a town minister comes to visit Felix and tell him that another old hermit has died.  Felix is not interested in attending the man's funeral, but he starts to think about his own.  He wants the funeral before he dies so he can hear what people will say about him, as it's clear he knows the people of the neighboring counties have lots of stories about him.  Going into town on his mule-driven wagon to visit the preacher, he gets into a fight with a bully who decides to insult him for no reason.  Felix wins the fight, despite being three times as old as the bully.  The minister does not want to take his money to perform a funeral for a living person, so Felix goes to the funeral parlor. 

The funeral parlor is run by Bill Murray and the younger man, Buddy.  Now, I have a problem with Bill Murray.  He cracks me up.  However, he always plays the same character:  a paragon of sincere insincerity.  (the exceptions would be the hilarious What About Bob? and Caddyshack, which my husband and son love to watch over and over--like Blazing Saddles.)  Bill Murray's character Frank is not 100% honest, although he isn't the world's biggest creep, either.  But he does see a good deal when it happens, especially when Felix says he wants to have a lottery for his land; the winner will get it after he dies. Piles of money start appearing at the funeral parlor from hopeful players.

Frank and Buddy agree to throw the funeral party but find that Felix is not willing to hand the arrangements over to them.  This is where the humor of the film comes from; the supposed "deceased" is running the show of the funeral.  He's lived his life his way, so why not?  However, there's more going on.  Mattie (Sissy Spacek) is back in town, now a widow.  She is not the lost love of Felix's life, although they had dated some in the past.  That lost love was Mattie's sister, who was married at the time.  The affair led to her death and a fire that we see at the beginning of the film. 

All that, however, we don't get to know until the end.  We get little bits and pieces to the mystery, as we should, and the whole, fairly gruesome, story at the funeral party out on Felix's property.  He confesses and asks forgiveness of Mattie for being involved in her sister's death, the one thing he has not been able to do, has refused to do, has tried to atone for himself by loneliness, has proudly held on to. 

The spiritual dimensions are huge in this movie, and despite a bit of cursing, it could be watched by a church group for discussions on the subject of reconciliation, forgiveness, bearing one's sin, and how the church should respond to people who need atonement. 

Some may say the movie is slow.  I say it's mature.  It reminds me of Winter's Bone in a lot of ways, and That Evening Sun.  Some may say it's just another showcase for some great actors, and of course it is, and it's hard to see anyone else in the roles.   They at least have accepted the fact they are old; Sissy Spacek looks like she has refused Botox, so good for her.  Robert Duvall is brilliant:  I think I've seen all his movies--until I look at IMDB and see that maybe 1/3 of them I have.  He never ceases to amaze, though.

 So, I haven't done a movie review lately, and this one deserves it.  Morning Glory does not. 

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