Get Low

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2

Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek. Comedy.drama.  Written by Chris Provenzano, Aaron Schneider, Charlie Mitchell.  Directed by Aaron Schneider.  Opens 7/30 in limited release.

FILM SYNOPSIS:  For years, townsfolk have been terrified of the backwoods recluse known as Felix Bush. People say he's done all manner of unspeakable things -- and they avoid him like the plague. One day, Felix rides to town with a shotgun and a wad of cash, saying he wants to buy a funeral. It's not your usual funeral for the dead Felix wants. On the contrary, he wants a “living funeral,” in which anyone who ever had heard a story about him will come to tell it, while he takes it all in. Sensing a big payday in the offing, fast-talking funeral home owner Frank Quinn enlists his gentlemanly young apprentice, Buddy Robinson, to win over Felix's business. But on the big day, Felix is in no mood to listen to other people spinning made-up anecdotes about him. This time, he's the one who is going to do the telling about why he has been hiding out in the woods.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe God’s name followed by the demand to “damn” someone isn’t a big deal.  Or, maybe the utterance of “Jesus” every time you get flustered or frustrated isn’t a form of rebellion or irreverence.  So, why does it continue to set wrong with me?  I guess ‘cause I keep reading chapters in the Bible that say we are to honor (respect) our Heavenly Father, and other verses that command us to not follow the world’s design, but to be the salt and a light.

I once again raise this question of profanity because publicists are hoping I’ll get behind the film Get Low despite the fact that there are five “Gds” and at least one “Jesus” (he who was without sin, yet died for ours) used in a non-respectful manner amid eighteen other obscenities and expletives.  That’s not a huge amount compared to many films these days, but they stand out, having been placed amid sentences of significance.  So, if we as Christians aren’t supposed to use such language, then why is it okay for us to be entertained by actors in movies who do?

By now, Robert Duvall should know that such irreverence is going to bother some of the very people he hopes will be supportive of his film (and he’s the main verbal offender, along with Bill Murray).  So, why did he not make an effort to refrain from such verbiage?  He’s a man of few words in the film, yet out pops the profanity whenever he wants to emote.

At one point, the guilt-ridden Felix (Duvall’s character) questions why he should ask Jesus’ forgiveness by stating, “I never did anything to Him.”  After having played the lead in The Apostle, another film about seeking redemption, one Mr. Duvall wrote, directed and starred in, the actor should know such a line, no matter its satisfying dramatic structure, would offend those sensitive to blasphemy.

Why is it the artist feels so above the restrictions set by society? For example, a large portion of the entertainment community is pleased that the “artistic” Roman Polanski has escaped extraction back to the States to face his fleeing justice years ago.  That famous director was charged with and admitted to having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, then fled prosecution, but he gets the blessing of his peers despite these misdeeds, because he makes movies.  My point: many artists feel they may live above the common man, that their artistry trumps the standards that hold a society together.  Evidently, when it comes to profaning the Creator’s name, “artists” also feel unchained by the instructions found in Exodus 20 (“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”).

As to Get Low, yes, it addresses themes of guilt and redemption, but always from a humanistic approach, never from a biblical standard.  At no point does anyone seek the forgiveness of Christ or His Father in this film.  I understand these themes can be handled symbolically, but the film goes out of its way to eliminate seeking repentance through Christ.

Get Low (a corny title if ever I heard one) has a detailed look, reminiscent of Places in the Heart, and the performances are top-notch, with Mr. Murray deserving Best Supporting actor acknowledgment by each and every film-nominating committee come awards season.  But the film’s tone shifts uneasily between fanciful and dramatic, leaving this viewer unmoved.  Its emotional impact never rises to the standard set in Places in the Heart, Tender Mercies, The Apostle, or To Kill a Mockingbird.

In its defense, a respected publicist found the themes clearer than I, finding its --- about a lost soul searching for forgiveness after a wasted life one everyone could relate to in some fashion. “Adapted from a true story, Felix Bush's character was surely salty, but what we love about the movie is that it makes people examine their own lives, and sings out with great Christian themes of forgiveness, grace, and grace rejected.  Will Felix find grace before the grave?  A lot of people will be discussing that question when the film comes out.  I'd like for Christians to be part of the conversation.”

My publicist friend makes a thoughtful argument, but sorry, Sony Classics, though I do appreciate that you are releasing a film for mature audiences in a time when the 14-year-old demographic is most sought after, if you want this reviewer to support a parable about finding redemption, you’ll have to pay homage to biblical truths rather than ignoring them.  And you’ll have to cut out the profanity.

DVD Alternative:  Places in the Heart. (1984). A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the '30s Depression.  Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film this buff has ever seen.  A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven, when his wife, moved by the pastor's sermon, takes her husband's hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ's love.  Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs.  I won't give that one away.  Trust me, it's powerful!  Rated PG (some mild language, implied adulterous affair – but it furthers the story and it is not explicit).  I know, I know. We can’t get away from objectionable language even in a suggested alternative film.  But Places in the Heart has a true message of redemption, one that doesn’t exclude our Savior.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Pictures Classics

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Four or five minor expletives, four obscenities.

Profanity: Two profane uses of God’s name.

Violence: The cantankerous old man is more threatening than actually hostile.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The Bill Murray character drinks on several occasions.

Other: None

Running Time: 112 minutes
Intended Audience: Pre-teens and up

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