The cast is the best thing in Get Low, a jerry-built period piece about forgiveness that stars – thankfully – Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.
Duvall has the lead role of Felix Bush, a hermit in 1930s Tennessee who suddenly waltzes into town and announces that he wants to throw a funeral party for himself before he dies. Murray plays Frank Quinn, the funeral director who agrees to help him.
It’s the waltzing into town that undermines the movie. There is no reason a bitter, reclusive and spiteful man like this would suddenly become a social butterfly, and the filmmakers – including first-time director Aaron Schneider – fail to provide one. Sure, we eventually learn that Bush intends to make a speech of contrition at the funeral, hoping to account for some long-ago sin, but he didn’t need a completely against character party to do that.
Still, the film offers Duvall in another grand performance (especially during that speech). Duvall’s acting often consists more of hissing, sighing and clicking of the tongue than actual dialogue, so this role – that of a man of few words – fits beautifully. He makes Felix a crank with a roiling spiritual cause.
Murray, meanwhile, is reliably droll – his Quinn is as much used-car salesman as funeral director. (“Hermit money. That’s good,” he salivates early on.) In keeping with the movie’s overall theme, Quinn, too, is on an unlikely road toward redemption. Along the way, Murray and Duvall manage to redeem Get Low.