Get Low: Before I go ahead and call Get Low the best movie of the year (and I will), let me first admit several biases I took into the film:
1) Hermits (one of several subcategories of Old Men with Beards) are awesome.
2) Robert Duvall is awesome (cases in point: To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove).
3) Bill Murray is awesome (Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation).
3) Sissy Spacek, perhaps the most underrated actor of her day, is awesome (Badlands, Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter, Affliction).
With all that talent gathered, expectations entering the cineplex were high. To date, I call Get Low the best movie of the year. Generally, critics have been flattering. That they haven't been positively beaming is baffling to me.
The premise of the story is simple and based on true events. An old hermit (Duvall), in a fit of affability, wants to throw a living funeral for himself. The town undertaker (Murray) is nearly broke and sees an opportunity to cash in. Along the way, we learn the hermit has a dark secret (what self respecting hermit doesn't?) involving Sissy Spacek and a portrait of an old flame he keeps by his bedside. That's all I'm saying about plot. The point of Get Low is to provide an excuse (and a flawless script) for gifted actors to do their respective things on the way to revealing the secret. Duvall is perfection as the wheezing, bearded recluse, Felix Bush. Murray, a borderline sleazeball who keeps a flask handy, is a used car salesman before there were used cars; watch him show off a collection of coffins like a fleet of dressed up Ford Pintos. Spacek timidly navigates much of the film (in a good way), until old memories finally get her guns a-blazin'. And hand the McBoner for best supporting actor to Bill Cobbs for his part as the preacher who knows the secret. Felix wants him to lead the service, and it's a joy to watch these lumpy, grizzled old buzzards go at it. Tying the characters together is the somewhat innocuous Lucas Black, who gets the uneviable job of playing the straight man among eccentrics. I tip my hat to him not being too vanilla as the undertaker's assistant.
Well, all of this hubbub leads to the preemptive funeral, complete with a raffle (the prize is Felix's property), a bluegrass band and throngs of townsfolk. The 'climax,' which fails to deliver the shock we may have been waiting for as an audience, is not so much a letdown as a natural conclusion, an overdue answer that shuts the door on one life and opens another.
Get Low features some of the best sets I've laid eyes on in a movie. Never for one moment did this rustic Tennessee town and wilderness look anything but authentic. Credit director Aaron Schneider for populating it with pros working in rare form. Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBones. Get Low easily merits a McBone Must See.
Mrs. Henderson Presents: No one (with the possible exception of Maggie Smith) plays a snob with more gusto than Judi Dench. Snobby, however, should not be confused with stuffy. In Mrs. Henderson Presents Dame Judi, in diametric opposition to the role she played to stuffy perfection in Pride and Prejudice, is a vivacious snob who is immediately bored with her recently acquired status of widow. To combat ennui, she buys a theater and hires Bob Hoskins to produce a stage show. When their collaborative efforts sputter, Mrs. Henderson suggests that the ladies, like at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, shed a few superfluous garments. Voila! The show is a smash, especially among G.I.s. World War II is raging, and the show is sweet refuge for horny soldiers. Mrs H. Presents is a worthy comedy with 'delicious' (if slightly hammy) chemistry between its two leads. The backdrop of war gives the film a welcome gravity, but the intrusion of melodrama surrounding Kelly Reilly (the show's star performer) and an amorous private undermines an otherwise delightful film. Extra credit for having the guts to show not just breasts, but the male member as well. 3.0 McBones.