Reclusive Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is an object of fascination and wild rumors in his small, Depression era Southern town, a hermit suspected of extravagantly evil deeds. In director Aaron Schneider's funny, touching debut Get Low, as Bush nears the end of his life, his decision to set the record straight with a "living funeral," roils the town and old ghosts even as it forces him out of his self-imposed isolation. A deft blend of drama, comedy, mystery, and a touch of romance, this self-financed indie that received the benediction of the Sundance Film Festival as one of its "Premieres" selections will appeal strongly to a mature audience drawn to robust characters, dry wit, and great performances. Sony Classics' strategy to release the film in summer as counter-programming to the season's popcorn blockbusters should pay handsome dividends at the box office.
A bad night inspires Bush to Get Low and account for his life and the event that sent him into exile in the woods. The way he plans to do that is with a kind of living wake where all are invited to share their stories of the old man with the wild hair and beard and fearsome reputation. With a dearth of actual death in the area, undertaker Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) welcomes the business, but leaves the details to his young, far more sincere associate, Buddy (Lucas Black). Bush's errand in town also brings him face to face with the widow Maddie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), a woman from his past who might be the only person in town able to separate Bush's life from his legend.
Screenwriters Chris Provenzano (TV’s Mad Men) and C. Gaby Mitchell (Blood Diamond) take their inspiration for their story from the life of Felix "Bush" Breazeale, who really did hold a living funeral in 1938 and like the Bush of this tale, did sell lottery tickets with his land as the prize as an incentive to get people to attend. From those bare bones, the writers have fashioned a complex, character-driven yarn in which the truth of Bush's life and just what it is he has been running from is gradually revealed, and in which a man who has been alone for so long suddenly finds himself drawn back into human company.
Get Low builds to a moving climax, but it is never maudlin as the comic elements serve to keep the movie buoyant. It is also an actor's clinic. The entire ensemble is strong with Murray and Black especially impressive in their support of Duvall. The drama is a little slow, but that is not necessarily a negative as Schneider captures the relaxed rhythms of small-town life. This is not a big film, but is one with a very big heart.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black and Bill Cobb
Director: Aaron Schneider
Screenwriters: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
Producers: Dean Zanuck and David Gundlach
Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content.
Running time: 102 min.
Release date: July 30 limited