Get Low - DVD Review

'a beautiful film where very little of note happens'

The full-length directing debut of Oscar-winner Aaron Schneider (2004, Best Short Film - Live Action, Two Soldiers), Get Low looks as beautiful as you might expect from a man with a history in cinematography. Whilst most of Schneider's 1930s Tenneesee is represented by woodlands, sparse roads and isolated farmsteads there's still a period beauty to be found here, which the first-time director picks out with an expert's eye. A late scene which sees Felix (Robert Duvall) and Mattie (Sissy Spacek) walking amongst the area's tall trees - framed black against the light background of the scrubland - is beautiful and the technical areas of the film are difficult to fault.

What Schneider perhaps needs to learn though is when to let his talented cast cut loose from the confines of underplay. The film has a melancholic air to it, deliberately imbued by Schneider in the scenery shots and careful, quiet, plot-building conversations between the leads. Never though, does the director allow his cast to go any further. Duvall plays Felix as merely mildly grumpy, when he needs to be much more unlikable at the start of the film. Bill Murray - who could have been brilliant as slightly-crooked funeral director Frank Quinn - is only mildly funny and never really feels like he gets out of first gear. Lucas Black - who gives a career-best performance here and is meant to be the straight man anyway - can be excused the restraints of his quietly obedient character.

What all this restraint means though is that Get Low feels like a beautiful film where very little of note happens. The initial odd-couple (actually an odd triplet) setup between Murray, Duvall and Black has potential but never leads anywhere funny or dramatic enough. The competing morals of Murray and Black seem ripe for dramatic impetus but, despite a few scenes where they consider ethical constraint, never compete enough to call it a competition. Felix, because his initial character setup is so tame, never really feels like he needs to be redeemed.

Of course, when the film reaches the reveal of the big secret it builds to, more becomes known about Felix's search for redemption. Pleasantly, in a film that spends a lot of time discussing an impending revelation, the payoff is worthwhile even if Schneider feels like he stutters somewhat in its delivery. Whenever Duvall and Spacek are on-screen the film bristles with majesty but they need more dynamic support elsewhere, something which the direction appears to forbid. A reverent nod to Schneider though for taking on the 'big themes' of religion, redemption and forgiveness with his first film and, although not completely nailing them, at least creating a passable attempt at exploration, which adds beautiful looks into the bargain.

Look further...

'Amidst Duvall's marvellous and lengthy career, his funeral speech will be considered amongst his greatest moments' - Andy Buckle's Film Emporium, C


  1. I agree. It really felt restrained. It looked great (at times), the performances were great, but it wasn't memorable in any way. The subtleties of the first half, the amusing moments were Duvall is a grumpy old hermit, and Murray acting as the shady businessman, are abandoned in the second half, as we discover his story. It didn't feel like his self-imprisonment was justified, and the funeral itself, well it was a let-down for me. Nice review. Thanks for the link. Appreciate it!

  2. You raise some excellent points, it does feel restrained and there's a sense that there's a more passionate film lurking beneath but I still find it charming - Sissy Spaceck especially so.

  3. Andy - No problem with the link - always happy to share good content - and, suffice to say, I agree entirely. It's a well-made film but as you say it is just not memorable in any way. I liked Duvall monologue during the funeral scene but it almost didn't build it up enough and you're spot on in saying that the nice little ticks of the first half completely disappear in the second.

    Andrew - I think that's exactly it - it is charming on occasion but that's all it is: mildly attractive. Agree on Sissy Spaceck. I think she's probably the only member of the cast that didn't feel overly restrained.