Robert Duvall's performance as the protagonist in GET LOW is a master's work. If this turned out to be the last film he acts in, people would easily use the phrase "went out with a bang" in reference to his exit from the acting career. During the movie's climax, his character, Felix, has to deliver a speech, and it is Duvall's job here to convey the guilt and frustration from a man who has kept his emotions bottled up for years. The results of his performance during this particular scene are simply staggering.
Felix is a haggard old hermit, who is generally feared by the rest of the townspeople, most of whom gossip about mostly untrue stories of "horrible" things that Felix has done throughout his life. Since Felix thinks that the end of his life is coming sooner than later, he decides he doesn't want anyone else making his funeral arrangements - he wants to make HIS OWN arrangements. He tries at the local church, but no luck; however, a contrivance allows Buddy (Lucas Black) to hear about Felix's intentions, and as it turns out, Buddy works at a private funeral home, so he immediately tells his boss, Frank (Bill Murray) about what Felix wants to do. Buddy and Frank are soon knocking on Felix's door offering their services. The young Buddy seems to actually be interested in Felix's demons and turmoils, while Frank is more interested in the money to be made from this venture. It turns out that Felix doesn't want his funeral to be accompanied by the conventional dreary atmosphere - he wants a funeral party! And that's not all. He wants there to be a raffle-type drawing in which the name of the guest that gets pulled out will win his entire property. As expected, this prompts excitement from a lot of the townspeople, and the "funeral party" now promises to be a huge event.
The most interesting aspect of GET LOW is the constant uncertainty as to what Felix's actual intentions are. Events take place later that make him apprehensive about going through with it. We soon meet Mattie (Sissy Spacek) and we discover that she's somehow connected to Felix's early life, but we don't know how yet. It all becomes clear when Felix delivers that terrific monologue at the end. The problem I do have with GET LOW is that the revelation that comes from the monologue isn't as emotionally devastating and searing as it may have been. We had gotten the feeling that Felix was packing a lot of feelings of guilt, and when we finally discover what the "secret" is, it seems like a more sanitized version of what a better script could've offered us. Additionally, in light of the revelation, I take issue with a line that is delivered earlier in the film ("Did you have anything to do with her death?!"), not only because the line itself is soap-operatic, but also because it partly spoils the revelation, and also because it's slightly misleading.
Still, GET LOW is certainly worth the watch for a performance that I truly hope won't be forgotten by the Academy come the end of this year. The film also deserves commendation because it's the type of movie that could've easily been 100% morose and serious during its entire time, but the trio of Duvall, Black and Murray offers a great sense of humor. Some of the business involving the awkwardness in setting up the "funeral party" is very funny. I wouldn't go as far as calling the film's last act "anticlimactic," but well, it's... not very climactic. There's an expectation that the ending would plunge into darker waters that the film ultimately shies away from, but thanks mostly to Duvall, the film retains much of its punch through the end.