Soak Up Robert Duvall In All His Rustic Greatness In “Get Low”
There really can be little argument that Robert Duvall is one of the greatest actors of all time. His resume, whether it be directing, acting, or producing, really speaks for itself. Last year, he produced the successful “Crazy Heart”. He directed himself to his finest performance ever in “The Apostle”. It’s kind of crazy that he has just the one Oscar to his credit.
Duvall may not add to his trophy case, but he will most certainly be one of the five nominees for Best Actor after his performance in “Get Low”. Sure, this eccentric hermit is a role just tailored for him to excel at, but that doesn’t make the output any less impressive. He’s still on top of his game and, as we creep up on his 80th birthday, he does not show any signs of slowing down.
In “Get Low”, Duvall plays Felix Bush, a man that has lived in a cabin in the remote woods all by himself for 40 years. He’s got the standard look that you would expect: long beard, long hair, ratty clothes, rifle in hand. You know, classic crazed hermit. Of course, after overhearing once conversation between Felix and a tombstone, you get the immediate sense that there is so much more to this man than the wild rumors about him that circulate the town.
In said town, there is a down on his luck undertaker Frank (Bill Murray) and his young assistant Buddy (Lucas Black). They are having some trouble keeping their funeral home afloat because, according to Frank, people just aren’t dying enough. Just imagine Bill Murray saying those words. Only Murray could say something as callous and uncaring, yet make you chuckle while doing it. Lucky for Frank and Buddy, Felix wants to have what he calls a “funeral party”, which by his own definition will be his own funeral that he will attend.
Zany right? While there are plenty of moments in “Get Low” that will warm your heart and make you smile, this isn’t much of a laugh-a-minute comedy. This is a serious character study about a man that has some serious scars on his heart, yet managed to keep his grace, wit, and mind while living in a fair amount of squalor. Throw in some sort of former love interest in Sissy Spacek’s Mattie and you’ve got yourself one thought-provoking story about human kindness and tragedy.
While the story alone would probably make “Get Low” an entertaining enough flick, there’s no doubt that the actors really take this one to the next level. I was mostly surprised by Lucas Black and just how well he handled himself as he never really had a scene without Duvall and/or Murray. Spacek plays a bit of a different character for her. Sure, she’s a southern lady, but she’s not as tough as nails in this one. The way she talked and smiled made me think she was some kind of beauty queen as a youngster. Murray is Murray. Anybody else plays this undertaker as a sleazy, silly money-grubber, but Murray busts out his typical sly, smarmy charm, never chews the scenery, and puts yet another understated, fairly great dramatic performance in the books.
Before I lavish praise on Robert Duvall, I briefly want to mention Bill Cobbs. I linked to his IMDB page so you can see the actor that I mean. Yeah, you’ve seen him before. Let me perhaps be the first to say that if received any attention for Best Supporting Actor from this, you will not get an argument from me. He is in the movie for three scenes at maybe 15 minutes total, but he plays a pivotal role and his initial scene with Duvall is one of my favorite that I’ve seen in 2010. He was just fantastic and it would be a great thing for such a long tenured character actor.
At the end of the day, this is Robert Duvall’s world and everyone else is just living in it. He’s on-screen for maybe three minutes and you completely buy into Felix. He grunts, he mumbles, he breathes heavy, he stares at people while they speak with his own mouth open, just not realizing what he’s doing. Duvall’s Felix isn’t crazy, he’s just not used to people, but he seemingly expects them to be immediately used to him. Simply put: Duvall is a joy to watch.