Four stars (out of five). Rating: PG-13, and too harshly, for brief profanity, fleeting violence and dramatic intensity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 8.27.10
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On June 26, 1938, shortly before the Great Depression yielded to the WWII years, a Tennessee hermit named Felix "Bush" Breazeale — having lived for years with no company but his beloved mule — threw himself a "funeral party" that lured upwards of 12,000 'mourners' from at least 14 different states.
The event probably wouldn't draw more than raised eyebrows today, but at that more innocent time it was regarded as highly eccentric; the 'service' was covered by Life magazine and reporters from numerous papers.
"I just wanted to hear," Breazeale took the Roane County Banner, "what the preacher had to say about me while I am alive."
Breazeale enjoyed his newfound celebrity for another five years before dying on Feb. 9, 1943, this time being laid to rest during an intimate church service that drew few onlookers on a cold winter's day.
Nobody really knows what prompted his desire for that first mammoth affair; it may have been just a whim.
Questions that tantalizing were made to be answered by imaginative writers.
Chris Provenzano, a veteran scripter of provocative TV shows such as Mad Men and Justified, shaped his take on Breazeale's saga with co-writer Scott Seeke; Provenzano then fine-tuned the subsequent script with C. Gaby Mitchell. The result is Get Low, an engaging little character drama deftly directed by Aaron Schneider, which gives memorably quirky roles to Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, with solid support from Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black and Bill Cobbs.
The film capably lives up to the iconic line in 1962's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Duvall has no shortage of unusual character parts in his past; he thrives on them. But familiarity certainly doesn't breed contempt, as Duvall's never quite the same way twice. His take on Breazeale is deceptive: The mostly silent backwoods man who initially appears unsophisticated proves to be shrewd, cunning and intelligent.