Get Low
Look out! Duvall’s got an axe!!

Theatrical Release Date: 08/06/2010
Director: Aaron Schneider
Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs, Scott Cooper, Lori Beth Edgeman

Few actors seem to command a great deal of respect anymore. All the big budget affairs rely on special effects and catchy soundtracks while the more challenging independent fare are more about the strength of the script allowing for actors to shine through. Robert Duvall, however, still fills up the screen with his sage-like presence and always leaves an imprint on a film, no matter how small the role (“The Road“) or bad the project (“Gone in 60 Seconds”). His latest effort comes in the form of “Get Low”.

Set in the late 1930′s and based on a true story, Duvall plays a hermit, seemingly content and intent on avoiding interaction with any other human being. After a brush with death, he decides to stop punishing himself for a tragic event over 40 years prior and wants to hold a funeral party … before he actually dies. Forced to reconnect with people from his past, and introduced to people who only knew of him through local legends, he begins the path to finding peace within.

To no great surprise, Duvall puts in a good performance. However, it’s more that he sleepwalks through the script and gives the audience what we expect – no more, no less. Lucas Black delivers another one note performance and aside from his non-ability to drift a hearse, they might as well have lifted his scenes from “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift“. Sissy Spacek’s character is more of a plot device than love interest and the “twist” to her connection with Duvall only adds to the muddled narrative.

If anyone adds some life to the project, it’s Bill Murray. The problem therein is that he’s the only one playing the film with some levity. It almost seems to work against the efforts of everyone else and I’d complain about him if it weren’t for the fact that his scenes are the ones that kept me the most interested. Adding to his disconnect from the remainder of the ensemble is that his lines feel ad-libbed while the rest of the cast might as well have had scripts in their hands.

As alluded to, the key problem to the film stems from director Aaron Schneider not maintaining a consistent tone. Is this a despondent tale of a man looking for redemption? Is it a dark comedy with a serious undercurrent? Is it an excuse for actors to work with Robert Duvall? It seems to be a bit of all three and trying to settle into a comfortable head space to enjoy the film becomes difficult.

This isn’t a new role for Duvall and no one other than Murray seems to be having much fun. There’s some heart to it all and the production design, costumes and score are superb, but not being able to pin down exactly what the focal points of the story are ends up sinking the film and “Get Low” earns itself a 2.5 out of 5.