Get Low Movie Review: Bill Murray Gets High As Goofy Grim Reaper

The idea of attending one’s own funeral service is either the stuff of supernatural cinema or just plain insanity, and unfortunately the folkloric devilish comedy Get Low chooses the latter. Nestled somewhere in the Great Depression backwoods just beyond Chicago, Get Low is based on an old legend from way back then. But its journey to the screen lacks any convincingly organic or authentic appeal, coming across more like some film school cosmopolitan kid’s idea of rural lore than anything else.

Robert Duvall is Felix Bush, the hamlet’s notorious nasty hermit who has been hiding away for the last forty years on his rundown remote farm, after being deemed an outcast for a couple of dastardly deeds that everyone is too shocked to talk about. Sensing that the end of his life is drawing near, Felix is intent on turning up at his own funeral service. Not because he wants to get a good look at his own corpse, but rather to find out what kind of mean gossip about him is going on when he’s not around.

Enter Bill Murray as Frank Quinn, the local funeral director, and also the funniest guy and savior of this generally down in the dumps movie. An actor who can do no wrong in no matter what movie and the single high point in Get Low, Murray plays a mortuary manager and goofy grim reaper strapped for cash with a stash of empty designer coffins, in a town where hardly anybody seems to ever die and be in need of one.

So as nutty as Felix’s pre-mortem service fantasy may be, Quinn is on the case. As for financing the surreal shindig, Felix has in mind a lottery staged to win his property. Not only to raise money for the funeral, but to make certain that plenty of those hostile neighbors show up at his service to pay their respects, not to mention compete for the prize.

Unfortunately for this thin melodrama, Murray’s sidebar darkly comical antics nearly upstage everything else, and could have used a movie of its own. While Duvall and a mostly muttering, dramatically dwarfed Sissy Spacek as a long ago spurned lover work overtime in the intensity department to breathe life into this dead on arrival dud – unlike the very much alive pretend cadaver.

Cinematographer turned first time director Aaron Schneider gets the rustic look just right, but the evident lack of familiarity with that depicted culture only reinforces preconceived generic notions of that quirky social landscape. While Duvall’s cranky when not creepy protagonist, however extreme an anti-hero, is such an unlikable character with no redeeming qualities, that any last minute contrived bid for compassion or understanding, yields only a sense of blatantly unearned, maudlin sentiments.

Sony Pictures Classics

Rated PG-13

2 [out of 4] stars