Illustration from Butterick dress pattern 5902, c. 1970
I'm starting to experience some review-writing fatigue when it comes to the shows I saw at Sundance this year, particularly now that the Festival's over and the winners have been announced (by the way, hooray for Red Chapel winning the Best Foreign Documentary award!). But I'm going to write about the last two shows I saw, even though I don't have much to say about them. Also, I was not feeling well the night I watched them back-to-back, which couldn't have helped. Anyway, Get Low is not a hip-hop epic about just trying to survive day to day in the inner city - well, that's the initial impression I got from the title, anyway. And it's kind of too bad, because who wouldn't want to see a hip-hop epic starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray?
Get Low is about a hermit living in a back-woods part of Tennessee in the '30s. Feared and hated by the people of the nearby town, the man decides for reasons unknown to throw himself a big funeral party prior to his own death. Everyone's invited. Duvall is great as Felix, the grizzly enigma at the center of the story, and Bill Murray delivers another solid performance as Quinn the undertaker, an opportunistic businessman willing to cash in on Felix's weird idea. The film takes a very leisurely pace, unwinding its mystery slowly while allowing the era and the locale to act as important characters in the story in their own right.
The only issue I had with Get Low is that the mystery at the center of the plot is not equal to the narrative and acting that surround it. When Felix's motivations are finally revealed, my thought was, "Really? That's all there is to it?" A little disappointing. But maybe it was my mistake to expect a melodramatic reveal at the end of such a conspicuously "small" movie. Or maybe it's because I fell asleep for about five minutes toward the end of the film because I was achy and feverish. I think I'll give Get Low another viewing at some point - the performances from the leads are among the best of their respective careers, and few movies in my recent memory have had such an excess of easy-going charm.
Tune in tomorrow to read about the one disastrous failure I saw at Sundance this year!
"Hermit Stew" by Tobin Sprout