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Zanuck Independent/Lara Enterprises

Get Low

Movies

Issue: "Crossing the Rubiocon," Aug. 14, 2010

Aaron Schneider's clean, laid-back drama Get Low has a great advantage: a meaty part for Robert Duvall. Duvall plays Felix Bush-a cranky old cuss who keeps a shotgun handy to scare off the neighborhood children who throw rocks at his ramshackle house in Tennessee.

When one of his old friends dies, Bush realizes that he, too, is getting on up there in years. He sets out to purchase himself a funeral, to be held as soon as possible so he can attend it himself.

This strikes folks as odd, not least of whom is the pastor of the local church (the first person Bush tries to get a funeral party out of). The preacher knows something about Bush and asks him pointedly if he's been forgiven.

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Bush doesn't answer, and the clergyman tells him the truth: "Forgiveness is free, Mr. Bush. But you have to ask for it." We do find out why Bush needs forgiveness, and that scene gets the movie its PG-13 rating, but there's little swearing and only some mild discussion of infidelity-all in the context of the pain it inflicts on its participants.

Thus spurned, Bush opts for a less churchy funeral, to be put on by Frank Quinn (a very funny Bill Murray), the town mortician who can't wait to overcharge his new client ("Ooh. Hermit money!").

At first, Quinn's junior partner, Buddy, feels bad about taking advantage of the older man, but as the reasons for Bush's self-imposed exile begin to make themselves known, he sees that his client may understand more than he lets on.

Get Low is not a perfect movie (for one thing, it's a Depression-era period piece in which everything looks brand new), but it has some truly splendid moments, especially the climax.

At the end of the film, Duvall finally tells us why his character felt the need to cut himself off from the world. Guided by director Aaron Schneider, it's a beautiful piece of acting and it's also a smart demonstration of the preacher's point about the healing power of confession.

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