For years, kids have been sneaking their way up to Felix Bush's hand-hewn cabin in the thick of the East Tennessee woods. Once they get there they might chuck a rock through a window and then run like the dickens. You sure wouldn't want to get caught! Old Man Bush would just as soon skin ya as look at ya. At least that's how the nearby town's stories go.
But after 40 years of self-imposed exile, Bush has decided it may be time to set some of those stories straight.
The elderly recluse rides his mule-drawn buckboard into town to make his desires known to a local undertaker. It's an odd request he makes, but not impossible—especially when mortician Frank Quinn sees the greasy roll of cash the grizzled woodsman pulls out of his pocket. They're smack in the middle of the Great Depression, after all. And folks in these here parts haven't been dyin' much lately.
So preparations begin for Bush's special funeral party. It's to be a gathering where everyone from the town and surrounding counties can come and tell any story they've heard about a man named Felix Bush … before he's actually dead and gone. To help grow the crowd, Bush even promises to raffle off his 300 acres of virgin timber at the event.
The people do come. And stories are told. But in truth there's only one tale the old soul really cares about. It's a story of shame and sin. Of loss and grief. And its telling could result in a sort of redemption … if only Bush can work up the courage to tell it.
Although Frank Quinn has the air of an untrustworthy opportunist about him, his young assistant Buddy is as straight-talking and thoughtful as they come. Buddy has had his own youthful run-ins with the hermit Bush, but he holds a natural desire to help the old guy. And he goes out of his way to do so, even when it appears that there won't be any pay for his effort.
Bush realizes Buddy's unselfish actions and tells him, "I guess, for every one like me, there's one like you, son. I 'bout forgot that." He also confides in Buddy about his guilt over a sinful choice, saying, "There's alive and there's dead. And there's a worse place between 'em that I hope you never know about." Buddy has solid support in his wife, Katy, who encourages her husband to do what he knows is right.
At his funeral gathering, Bush finally spills the full story about what caused his last 40 years of isolation and guilt. And he asks for forgiveness from the crowd and from a friend, Miss Mattie, for not being able to save someone's life.
Bush talks to a pastor about coming to the close of his life and it being time to "get low." The reverend says in reply, "What matters is that when you come to the end of your life, you get right with the Lord." The old man seems hesitant to go there, wanting instead to pay for a well-spoken eulogy. The pastor adds, "Mr. Bush, you can't buy forgiveness. It's free. But you do have to ask for it."
Bush then travels to see Charlie Jackson, an old acquaintance who also happens to be a pastor. Charlie tells him, "I talked to God a lot about you over the years." And he encourages Bush to seeks his forgiveness from God. Later, a troubled Bush visits the gravesite of a loved one and says, "They keep telling me about Jesus—asking Jesus for forgiveness—I never did nothin' to Him."
At Bush's gravesite Charlie prays for his apparently still unsaved friend. "I wish you peace from the burdens on your mind," he says. "I wish it for us all."
Bush speaks of having had "a go" with a girl in his youth. He also admits to a love affair with a married woman.
At the movie's open, we see a man break through an upstairs window in a burning house and fall to the ground. On fire, he picks himself up and staggers away. Part of Bush's story that he tells revolves around tragic deaths. And he speaks of seeing a woman after she was bloodied and battered by her husband.
Bush isn't shy about waving his rifle around. So when a boy breaks his window with a rock, Bush charges out of his house, shooting into the air. He corners the kid in the barn—scaring him so badly that the youth vomits before running off into the woods. Bush also shoots the glass right next to Buddy's face as the younger man looks in through his kitchen window.
We see a man throw a rock at Bush's buckboard. He then walks closer in a threatening way. Bush responds by pulling out a chunk of wood and hitting him with it. Although we don't see it happen, Buddy is mugged for cash. We see him later nursing a cut on his head.
Crude or Profane Language
One s-word. God's and Jesus' names are abused about 10 times total, with God's being combined with "d‑‑n" at least five. There are 20 or more uses of other foul words, including "b‑‑tard" "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bush smokes throughout. Quinn keeps a flask of alcohol in his jacket pocket, and we see him knock back a swig from time to time. He pours Bush a glassful, and they share a drink. A beer bottle sits on a table as a group of friends play cards.
Other Negative Elements
Quinn makes off with a sizable amount of money that doesn't belong to him. (He later returns it.)
Get Low is an intimate morality tale made up of equal measures earnest drama and dry humor. It's a story with a perfectly set, lightly tattered Depression-era feel that delicately unfolds like ancient linens, found by surprise, tucked away in the bottom of an old cedar chest.
Unhurried viewers will find good things here. And even though the self-exiled protagonist has difficulty finding the true redemption he seeks, thoughtful witnesses will see the truth sitting comfortably in the weave of the fabric. So in many ways this is a first-rate film. Bill Murray's wryly caustic mortician is one of his best efforts. And Robert Duvall's Felix Bush is a gruffly subtle, crabby-but-magnetic character of few words.
Some of those few words, however, are cantankerously crass. Perhaps they fit the man, but they detract from his story nonetheless. Even precious old linens can hold a few stains you wish weren't there.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Robert Duvall as Felix Bush; Sissy Spacek as Mattie Darrow; Bill Murray as Frank Quinn; Lucas Black as Buddy; Bill Cobb as Rev. Charlie Jackson
Aaron Schneider ( )
Sony Pictures Classics
July 30, 2010
February 22, 2011