‘Get Low’: A Tale of Forgiveness

Aaron Schneider’s Get Low is a simple film. It doesn’t have lavish set designs or fanciful period costumes, but in the end, this builds the film’s credibility more than it hurts. See, Get Low isn’t about the time or the place. They’re certainly important factors, but they never overtake the story. Instead, what the film treats us to is a rich array of characters who unfold beautifully up on the screen. While Get Low has its certain folksy charms about it, it’s clearly a movie that will not please everyone. Its very natural pace may seem slow to others, while some may just feel that it lacks the drive or motivating force of many other films. There’s always room for different interpretations, but Get Low is a truly cinematic event, unlike most other films in recent years, and one well worth watching.

Even if the story doesn’t appeal to some, as previously noted, the real draw are the characters who are expertly brought to life by an impressive cast. Robert Duvall has received most of the attention for his role as the hermit, Felix, whose past continues to plague him years later. What’s most impressive about his performance is the grave seriousness with which Duvall plays the role. There’s such weight behind even the simplest of actions. However, the strongest points of the movies arguably belong to the comedic aspects of the film. It wouldn’t be fair to describe Get Low as a dramedy, but its seamless transition between the dramatics and the wry, sometimes obvious, humor is truly in a class of its own. Duvall shines here as well, deadpanning with the best of them. It’s an impressive feat to be able to play both with such talent, but it’s also a true credit to the writing of the film itself.

That’s another point well worth making. The writing of Get Low is indescribable. Just as I had given up hope that people were even trying to write quality films anymore, Get Low is a breath of fresh air. As odd as it may sound, the film itself is about stories, stories about Felix, about Felix’s past, and the story he’s been keeping from everyone for years, so naturally, the film possesses some more story-like qualities. It’s difficult to describe just what it is about it that lends itself to this literary quality, but since the film is more dialogue-driven and not very action-oriented, it takes on this new life. It returns to the days where story was prized more than spectacle. If Get Low is any indication, we’re ready for a return to those days. The film proves beyond a doubt that engaging characters and an engrossing story can easily make a film.

However, to credit Duvall and the story with all the work would be truly unfair. Bill Murray is delightfully devilish in his role as the undertaker. It’s difficult to get a full read on the character, but Murray makes him a true joy to watch in another skillful balancing act of drama and comedy. Lucas Black was the true surprise of the film for me though. Not being very familiar with Mr. Black’s work, I didn’t know what to expect from him. As the film progresses, his character becomes more and more essential, arguably even becoming the centerpiece of the film. When acting with such heavyweights as Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek, it’s not always easy to prove that you’ve got what it takes, but as the heart of the movie, Lucas Black does a fine job. As for Sissy Spacek, she does what she can with her role. She’s intoxicating in every scene that she’s in, but her history is one of the more frustratingly slow aspects of the film. Still, as with most films, there is a substantial payoff at the end of the film that makes any anxiety, frustration, or yes, even boredom, well worth suffering.

Get Low is a unique film in its simplicity. A group of truly talented actors can perform to the best of their abilities, but it’s what they do with the written words on the page that make a film worth watching. Get Low cherishes its actors and actresses, as well it should, and gives them roles that are unlike many other. Furthermore, its tendency to dance from drama to comedy so effortlessly may sound like a distraction, but in reality, it is one of the more charming parts of the film. All of these things come together to create a beautifully imagined film that returns to its storytelling roots with unparalleled skill.

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