Robert Duvall began his movie career portraying Arthur “Boo” Radley. In his latest movie, “Get Low,” we see what could be termed the evolution of Boo.
It has been said that the allure of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is tied to the belief that every neighborhood has a Boo Radley. The neighborhood I grew up in had a trail through the woods called “The Devil’s Path.” All manner of stories about the path were told, but one story that everyone knew was that at the end of the path lived Mr. O’Tuel. He was a mean old man who would think nothing of shooting you with rock salt and bacon grease if he caught you on his place.
Duvall plays a character like this. His name is Felix Bush, and the movie opens with a child throwing a rock through the window of Bush’s old cabin. Out the door he comes – an old man with a long gray beard and gun in hand. He chases the boy into the barn where the youngster grows so scared he vomits.
Later, the preacher (Gerald McRaney) comes to tell Bush that a friend of Bush’s died. This gets Bush to thinking that the time has come for him to “get low” – which means he needs to have a funeral.
Bush goes to the church to ask the preacher for a funeral. He has money, and he wants one thing in particular: to be at the funeral. The preacher makes it clear that he cannot do a funeral for a man who is still alive.
Coming to have his child christened is Buddy (Lucas Black). Buddy works for Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the owner of the local funeral home. Business is bad for Quinn, so when Buddy hears that Bush has money and wants a funeral, he sees a chance to move his boss’ business into the black.
Buddy tells Quinn about Bush, and Quinn wastes no time putting Buddy on the case for getting Bush’s funeral.
Bush takes Buddy into his home, cooking for him and feeding him. While eating, Bush tells Buddy he wants to have a funeral where people can come and tell their stories about him.
Having lived in that cabin for 40 years, there were lots of stories about Bush. Buddy himself knows a few. What Bush wants to do is face the lies about him, and then have a moment when the truth can be told.
A part of the story is a past relationship between Bush and Mattie (Sissy Spacek). In Bush’s words, he and Mattie had “a go” long ago. Mattie knows more about Bush than anyone else in town, but she does not know his secret – something hidden deep inside. To use his language, he has built himself a jail and locked himself away for 40 years.
“Get Low” is a nice movie that shows us that even those we dismiss are people with feelings, longings and truth. Duvall plays this role with passion and fire. His Felix Bush is a man that does not wear his heart on his sleeve, but we find ways of knowing what is in his heart.
The commonality of knowing people like Felix Bush draws us into the story. He is a different sort of man, and we all want to know why someone would lock themselves away from all human contact. What motivates a person to do everything in their power to turn people away?
What also makes the movie enjoyable is Bill Murray’s Frank Quinn. Quinn has a wit that’s quick and drier than the Sahara. He’s also a wonderful counterpoint to Bush. While Bush is all passion, Quinn is all reason. He’s in it for the money and isn’t afraid to let you know that.
“Get Low” is not the best movie of the year or even the summer. But it’s a fine movie with an unforgettable character, and that makes it worthwhile.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material and brief violent content.
Director: Aaron Schneider
Writers: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
Cast: Robert Duvall: Felix Bush; Bill Murray: Frank Quinn; Sissy Spacek: Mattie Darrow; Lucas Black: Buddy; Gerald McRaney: Rev. Gus Horton; Bill Cobbs: Rev. Charlie Jackson.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.