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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010 09:54 pm

Get Low driven by Duvall’s powerful performance

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Sissy Spacek stars as Mattie Darrow and Robert Duvall stars as Felix Bush in Get Low.

In his best roles, Robert Duvall taps in to what it means to be human. In Get Low, his Felix Bush is a flawed man who has stayed away from civilization for 40 years. His rural home is a target for trick-playing children and an even greater breeding ground for tales about him. Bush does nothing to dispel what people think and so it comes as a surprise when he announces he’ll host a funeral party for himself, inviting one and all to come and tell stories about him. Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the shrewd undertaker he hires, suggests attendance is likely to be low as most will fear being shot if they rile Bush. So, he decides to raffle away his place – some 300 acres of it – a prize that attracts hundreds.

Loosely based on a true story, this Depression-era tale is lovingly told by first- time director Aaron Schnieder, whose only fault is that he falls victim to the languid pace of the period he’s depicting. The film sags far more often than it should. Yet with Murray underplaying his role (expect a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nom) and Sissy Spacek on hand, this veteran cast invests the film with a passion and sincerity that saves it.

But let’s be honest – this is Duvall’s show and he reminds us that he’s one of our great screen treasures. Watch as he deftly peels away the layers from Bush, revealing what makes this man until there’s nothing left but a raw, honest soul before us. The climax of the funeral party, when Bush reveals the truth about himself, is a one-take tour de force in which we see this man humbly seeking redemption, laying himself bare before his fellow sinners. It’s a gripping, moving moment that elevates Get Low and reminds us of the grace that can be attained through atonement and forgiveness.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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