Saturday, January 15, 2011

Movies: Get Low

Get Low is basically a Cohen brothers' film that wasn't made by the Cohen brothers. A cranky old hermit in an old Western town gets the notion into his head that he wants to have a funeral party—now, before he's dead, so that he can hear the stories people have to tell about him. First he appeals to the local parish, but the priest won't take his dirty wad of money to do something so unorthodox. Bill Murray (one of many Cohenesque touches), a down-on-his-luck funeral parlor owner in a town where no one is dying, gets wind of this through his young assistant, and offers the old misanthrope just what he wants. They take a portrait of the crazy old man and post it all over town, and sell $5 raffle tickets to win ownership of the hermit's property once he does die.

But because the film isn't actually written by a Cohen, it turns sentimental where it should have stayed quirky and smart. After a number of challenges, including theft of the raffle money, the pastor's refusal to speak at the event, and the hermit's threat to call the whole thing off, the party goes on, and the curmudgeon tells his story. As a young man, he had been in a relationship with a young lady, but had fallen deeply in love with her already married sister. At their house one night, something went wrong. There was a fight, and a big fire. He tried to save the woman he loved, but he failed. He lived and she died. No one ever knew. In the forty years since the event, he kept himself isolated in his compound, no one but a donkey and a string of dogs (all buried in the yard) to keep him company.

Redeemed by the truth in front of the town, the man can die in peace, which he does, then having a much more modest funeral, attended only by the handful of characters we have come to know throughout the film. Very nice. Next?

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