Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 34
 
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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Cinema

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

I’M HERE TO PAY FOR MY FUNERAL, WHICH I PLAN TO ATTEND: Bush Breazeale (Robert Duvall, right), a hermit living in the mountains, approaches the local undertaker Mr. Quinn (Bill Murray, left) to see if he will agree to arrange a funeral for Bush while he is still alive. Quinn’s assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) listens in disbelief to the bizarre request.

Get Low: Hermit Attends His Own Funeral in a Bittersweet Tale of Redemption

Kam Williams

Get Low bills itself as “Based on a True Tall Tale” which suggests that the story is more likely folklore than factual. However, what’s more important for cinematic purposes is that what allegedly transpired in 1938 in Roane County, Tennessee is presented on the screen in a plausible and entertaining manner.

Fortunately, that is the case with this drama thanks to a compelling, cleverly conceived script and a talented cast topped by two Academy Award winners. Coincidentally, co-stars Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek both earned their Oscars for portrayals of country singers in Tender Mercies and Coal Miner’s Daughter, respectively.

The film revolves around Felix “Bush” Breazeale (Duvall), an aging recluse who has lived alone in the woods for over forty years. He retreated there after being implicated in the death of Mary Lee Stroup (Arin Logan), a young woman who perished in a house fire under suspicious circumstances. Although the details are murky at the point of departure, it is clear that the incident left the grieving hermit with a bad reputation amongst his neighbors.

Sensing that “It’s about time for me to Get Low,” (meaning die), Bush has decided to return to town to attend his own funeral. So, he pays a visit to the local undertaker to arrange for his wake to be staged while he’s still alive. Unscrupulous Mr. Quinn (Bill Murray) goes along with the unusual request, merely to take the money from a man whom he thinks is an addlepated old fool. However, he is unaware that there’s a method to the gruff mountain man’s madness.

Bush invites everyone “who has a story to tell about me” to the morbid gathering. His goal? To make the most of this last opportunity to refute the many unchallenged rumors which have circulated about him for all these years. The service will be led by the Reverend Horton (Gerald McRaney) and the Reverend Jackson (Bill Cobbs), and foremost among the guests expected to attend is the late Mary Lee’s sister, Mattie (Spacek), a woman with good reason to be skeptical about Bush’s version of events.

Finally, after everyone has had a chance to tell their story, Bush steps up to the pulpit to take a last shot at redemption by delivering a stirring soliloquy that explains his side of the story and then throwing himself on the mercy of the community. Duvall turns in another one of his trademark performances, which almost singlehandedly makes the movie memorable.

A morality play about the steep price guilt is capable of exacting on a tortured soul who is consumed with regret.

Excellent (3½ stars). Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief violence. Running time: 100 minutes. Studio: Sony Pictures Classics.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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