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Film review: GET LOW. On Built for Speed

Is it possible to go wrong with a cast that includes Robert Duval, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek?  No! Well, at least not on the evidence of the small but charming American gothic fable Get Low.  Filled with wry humour and understated yet piercing emotion, this is one of the year’s hidden gems.

Duval plays the scruffy, bearded and allegedly crazy hermit Felix Bush who lives in the wilds on the edge of a Tennessee town in the early 1930’s.  Filled with repressed anger and guilt over a past tragedy, Bush has become an uncooperative grump who’s treated like a pariah and virtual boogeyman by the townsfolk.  Sensing he has only a short time left to live, Bush makes the strange request to local undertaker Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) for a huge funeral party where he can attend and tell his story.

Duval grabs the film by the lapels as Bush, a man whose life has been one of bitter self-imposed exile.  He’s enigmatic and infuriating but avoids alienating the audience by displaying flashes of charm, humour and as a woodsman, Bear Grylls-like resourcefulness.  The real star, though, is Bill Murray as the oily Quinn.  Murray somehow manages to perfectly fit his Ghostbusters/ Groundhog day deadpan into a period drama.  Murray brings so much comic cache to the role that by simply raising his eyebrow at some of Bush’s eccentricities he had the audience cackling.  There’s also fine support from Lucas Black as Quinn’s funeral assistant Buddy, Sissy Spacek as a local woman connected to the central mystery of Bush’s life and Bill Cobbs as a preacher who knows the truth about Bush.

Direction and cinematography are all excellent with striking vistas of the foreboding Tennessee forests.  There’s also a fine soundtrack filled with rustic folk music and a compelling classical score.

This is a small scale drama and the limited scope of the plot may leave some dissatisfied but if you’re after fine acting, a moving story and a few laughs, Get Low is strongly recommended.

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