102 minutes

There is something comfortably Coen-like about Aaron Schneider's debut feature. Maybe it's the wry, laconic humour of the piece, based upon a real-life story of 1930s Tennessee, maybe it's the matter-of-fact presentation of its eccentric tale: country hermit Felix Bush (a regal Robert Duvall), after 40-odd years as a recluse, reengages with the world by hiring the local funeral parlour, run by Chicago transplant Frank Quinn (a deliciously wry Bill Murray), to organise his funeral... while living.
     Still, it's unlikely Get Low, as a first film, could ever hope to catch up to the Coens – there are a number of conventional, clumsy framings and edits (especially towards the film's third act) that should mostly be attributed to inexperience. Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell's script also succumbs in its third act to an overly melodramatic reveal, not helped by the thick laying on of folksy rural charm mr. Schneider can't help himself evoking. 
     But these are all minor quibbles when faced up, first, with the period-perfect feel for mood and location and relaxed, easy-going rhythm the neophyte director demonstrates; and, second, with the stunning performances that anchor the film. Not only messrs. Duvall and Murray's, but also Sissy Spacek as an old flame of Felix's, Bill Cobbs as an old friend, and Lucas Black as the young local assistant to Frank Quinn that acts as the viewer's surrogate, all of them deftly balanced by mr. Schneider's tempo (he doubles up as director and editor).  It's a film more intuitive than technical, whose charms overcome its achievements, but also a promising debut feature revealing a director perfectly attuned to his cast.  

Starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs.
     Directed and edited by Aaron Schneider; produced by Dean Zanuck, David Gundlach; screenplay by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, based on a story by mr. Provenzano and Scott Seeke; music by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek; director of photography (colour, Efilm digital intermediate, Panavision widescreen), David Boyd; production designer, Geoffrey Kirkland; costume designer, Julie Weiss.
     A K5 International presentation of a Zanuck Independent production, in association with David Gundlach Productions, LARA Enterprises, TVN, Butcher's Run Films. (US distributor, Sony Pictures Classics. World sales, K5 International.) 
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Castello Lopes screening room (Lisbon), May 23rd 2011. 


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