Monday, February 28, 2011

Get Low

Get Low is the type of movie that Hollywood has forgotten how to make. Producer Dean Zanuck spent the better part of eight years knocking on every door in Hollywood. He said he was turned down by every major studio at least three times. Period American pieces for adult audiences featuring primarily older actors are a tough sell. But, because of his persistence, Zanuck found the funding and the means to make this film a reality. Zanuck has made an outstanding and authentic American film. This is what filmmaking should be about.

Get Low is based on a true story which occurred during the depression in the 1930s. Felix (Bush) Breazeale, a backwoods Tennessee recluse, had a funeral party before his death. It was a national sensation featured in Life Magazine, and over 10,000 people came to the funeral party.

Get Low is a poetic story which combines elements of comedy, tragedy and drama. The film was directed by first-time director Aaron Schnider, who also wrote the screenplay. Schnider is known as a cinematographer, and it shows on every frame in this film. Get Low is beautifully photographed and exudes Southern atmosphere.

Of course the acting is nothing short of brilliant. America’s greatest character actor, Robert Duvall, plays the hermit, Felix Bush. Bush decides it is time to get low so he heads to town looking to plan his own funeral before he dies. The catch is he wants to be there in attendance so he can hear others telling stories about what they’ve heard about him. Bush apparently has a rather clouded past and is a rather eccentric character. Is he a harmless old man or a threat?

Frank Quinn is portrayed by Bill Murray, who is the local undertaker in need of business. Apparently no one in town has been dying. Quinn is more than willing to help Bush out, especially when he sees a huge wad of cash. Quinn’s assistant, Buddy Robinson portrayed by Lucas Black, is more interested in the reason why someone would want to do this in the first place. He seeks answers. Why would Bush choose a life of solitude away from the world for over 40 years?

Adding to the mystery is Bush’s old flame, the widow, Mattie Darrow, portrayed by Sissy Spacek. Apparently, she knew Bush before his days of solitude. The one man who can unravel the mystery is the Reverend Charley Jackson (Bill Cobbs). He knows the truth and the history behind the events that changed Bush’s life.

The question is does Bush really want to hear what people have to say about him or does he have another motive? To increase the excitement and interest of the funeral party, Bush will give up his prime virgin land at his death, in a lottery in which each participant will put up five bucks to enter.

Get Low is so much more than a movie about a tough old man who is trying to come to terms with his own mortality. This is a spiritual film, a quest to reveal dark secrets and to seek release from past sins and guilt. At its heart are redemption and reconciliation. Sometimes we just don’t feel that we have the right to seek forgiveness so we make our own prison. These are the complex issues that fuel Get Low.

Robert Duvall has always had a special place in his heart for films like Get Low. In fact, you can say it’s his trademark. He has a deep respect for rural people and traditional values. You can see it in his past body of work, such as The Apostle, Secondhand Lions, and Lonesome Dove.

One actor that I hope more people recognize is Bill Cobbs. He’s been in the business for over 35 years but often doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves. Get Low debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by Sony Classics. It grossed over $9 million at the box office. Obviously, there is an audience for films like Get Low. If you are looking for a film from the heart that’s truthful about life and the need for forgiveness and God’s redemptive power, then I wholeheartedly recommend Get Low.

Look for it on DVD. It is currently available and not too hard to find.

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