Get Low (Aaron Schneider, 2009)
Yesterday was Sunday, September 26, and in my mind, the first fully realized day of fall. As I was riding to the Landmark Theater in Kendall to catch the 1:25 showing of Get Low, I saw that the humble Boston skyline was subdued under the thick cover of clouds. The muted gray seeped into everything, and though the summer smoldered it had lost contrast and color. What better time is there to turn to film, which in itself is just color and contrast? A descending day of white and gray is the perfect world to abandon for another; it is a variable, where nothing is being missed.
This turned out to be the perfect preface for Get Low – a film about regret in the dwindling years of the hermit protagonist, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall). The strongest part of the film comes far too soon; we watch an enigmatic Duvall escape from a burning building (where his character is formed) and then see him 40 years later hiding behind an enormous beard, where he threatens trespassers on his remote property (what he has become). It certainly functions, albeit somewhat of an abridged adaptation of the first 20 minutes of There Will Be Blood (2007), and I found myself entranced by his senseless mutterings and heavy breathing. Personally, I would have watched Duvall putt about his cabin and tend to his mule for the entire film. Watching him play awkward around his ex-lover’s sister, Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), was also a treat. Together they completed a history and a lifetime that we were not privy to. Regrettably, that was about it for decent acting.
Buddy (Lucas Black) has the unfortunate habit of overplaying his thought process on his face (can you count the beats?). Bill Murray is both out of time and out of character as he attempts to portray Frank Quinn, the destitute owner of a funeral home. He’s obviously meant to introduce some lighthearted humor, but I left with the distinct impression that he spent most of his lines making fun of the film itself.
Despite that, it was the filmmaking that left the sourest taste in my mouth. Every scene dripped so much lubrication that at times I felt transported to some early 90′s TV-rendition of On Golden Pond. Subtle dolly shots for no apparent reason, pushing in to accentuate a beat–torn from the well-worn pages of the hollywood handbook–it was all too much. It’s unfortunate because the ideas of the film are relatively interesting, but I was so constantly reminded of the director attempting to heighten the emotion I found it impossible to actually engage.
There are certainly some moments, primarily those alone with Bush, that are worth the ticket price, but I wouldn’t rush out the door.