23 September 2010

"Get Low" with Georgia cinema

Although Get Low was released just this summer, I remember two years back, reading an announcement in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling for as many extras as possible to show up at Picket's Mill (a historic site near Acworth, Georgia) in their best Depression-era clothing. I thought about attending. I was even willing to skip my classes (not really a stretch for me anyway). Unfortunately, I had just taken most of my Depression-era clothes to the dry-cleaners and they weren't going to be ready for a few more days.

Whether I am privy to the filmmaking or not (usually not), I often like to support movies that are filmed locally. I saw Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd at the cinema (mistake) and I'll probably see the remake of Footloose (impending mistake), since I have already made a 'set visit.'

While it is always wonderful seeing familiar surroundings on the big screen, it is often not worth the price of the movie ticket. This time, my local pride didn't turn out to be a waste of money. Get Low was worth every penny, regardless of my geographic sentiments.

The film tells the tale of a crazy old man (Robert Duvall) living in seclusion outside a small town full of people who spread all sorts of rumors about him. Of course, there is one person in town (Lucas Black) who sees a heart of gold deep down inside the crazy old man. There is even a person in town (Sissy Spacek) who knew the old crazy before he was old and crazy. Then, you have the struggling business owner (Bill Murray) who, being a yankee outsider, has nothing to lose by cozying up to the town crazy. When the old crazy sees his days coming to an end, he decides to invite everyone to come tell stories about him at his funeral... while he is alive... at his funeral.

Of course, this story is pleasant enough by itself, but the movie really shines when we start to learn why he shut himself off from others for forty years and what emotional damage has resulted. A good cast was needed to bring all of this to life, and a good cast was delivered.

No one is going to ignore a group that includes Robert Duvall (six Oscar nominations, 1 win), Sissy Spacek (6 Oscar nominations, 1 win) and Bill Murray (one Oscar nomination). I suppose Bill Murray will appeal more to younger audiences than the other two, but Duvall and Spacek have both proved to still be worthy of the 'household name' moniker. These three are in top form here and while Oscar buzz exists for all three, Duvall stands the best chance of a nomination. Spacek could find herself in the Best Supporting Actress race if the usually crowded category doesn't see more worthy entrants soon (personally, Jacki Weaver is still the one to beat). Bill Murray will likely be forgotten as the studio will see more of a need to push for Duvall's nomination, but I don't feel that Murray is even the most deserving Supporting Actor nominee anyway. I would give that distinction to Bill Cobbs, who plays an old pastor friend who knows the answer to why Duvall isolated himself.

This is the first meaty role for Cobbs in quite a while. The actor is used to smaller character parts and television roles (and that Peter Cetera Heineken commercial). I think he delivers more depth to his performance than any other supporting player. Unfortunately, I must be alone in my opinion, as Cobbs has gone by relatively unnoticed so far.

Lucas Black puts up a good performance as well. With already a good set of films under his belt, he is on his way to a sturdy career. Besides, it is impossible for me not to be a fan of his, with that unwavering Southern accent (we need more of these in Hollywood) and the fact that he looks a bit like the missing link between me and my brother.

Oscar winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek put together a nice score, with the help of Jerry Douglas and The Steeldrivers. Alison Krauss also offers up a song over the credits. I would easily recommend this soundtrack.

The cinematography isn't the best I've seen this year, but you can tell there was an artful eye behind the lens. The beautiful Georgia scenery doesn't hurt either, and it serves as an extremely appropriate substitute for Tennessee (where the film takes place). The costumes are good enough to be in contention for the Oscar, which only makes me regret not showing up in my Great Depression suit.

Aaron Schneider has made an impressive directorial debut with Get Low, seeing as his film finds a nice balance between aesthetics and performances. I'm happy the film has found the audience it deserves.

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