Cameron's Review of Get Low
"Get low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home." Huh, so this is what became of Robert E. Lee, I always though that he died of pneumonia in 1870. Oh no, wait, I'm sorry, this isn't about good ol' R.E. Lee, it's just that when I saw that thick beard on Robert Duvall and this film's taking place in the deep South, I figured that I was stepping into the long-anticipated... by me and the other three people who didn't hate "Gods and Generals" final installment in Ronald F. Maxwell's Civil War trilogy, and it didn't help that this film got about as much attention and money as an R.F. Maxwell Civil War epic. Of course, this film's being so much less than "Gettysburg" or "Gods and Generals" that it actually got its money back is a pretty good sign that we're dealing with a very different film, which isn't to say that that's the only dead giveaway to this film's being outside of Maxwell's trilogy, as this film is both immensely shorter than either "Gettysburg" or "Gods and Generals" (Well, in all fairness, what isn't?) and hardly as limited in subtlety. True, "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" had its subtle touches here and there, but maybe this film restrains itself a smidge too much. Eh, whatever, I'm gonna run with it, as this film has another thing in common with "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals": enjoyability (Shut up, I like "Gods and Generals"). Still, with that said, this film isn't quite "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals", and not just as far as lengthiness is concerned, having too many [u]low[/u] spots, or at least too many s[u]low[/u] spots.
Clocking in at about 100 minutes, this film definately, as I said, isn't "Gettysburg" or "Gods and Generals", having a length that seems fitting, if a little bit too tight for as much material as there probably should be to survive, but really, the final product sticks around a touch too long, or at least that's how things feel, as pacing stands consistently slow, with momentum and atmospheric bite limiting that both gets to be rather repetitious and brings more to light the fact that there really is only so much bite to this project. Now, we're definately not looking at a should-be smash of a considerably rewarding tale, yet this story perhaps deserves better than what this execution is giving it: pacing issues that undercut what momentum there is within the premise, and it most definately doesn't help that this film all too often puts the slowness in the pacing to not so good use. Quiet, atmospherically juiceless and altogether meandering, this film makes the dragging of its feet all the worse by really delivering on blandness that sometimes descends into dullness, and pretty heavily, to where the film finds itself limping along, rarely to find a pick-up point. What is done right with this film sparks some immediate intrigue that very well could have been sustained throughout the film, yet with pick-up being just to limited and blandness being just so prevalent, the film loses too much steam after a while until it finally falls as underwhelming, plagued by coldness that wouldn't be as potent as it is were it not for there being coldness even when should-be pick-up does, in fact, arrive. More often than not, atmosphere is juiceless, and that's enough to dilute your full investment, yet when atmosphere does find juice, it bitters things with more subtlety than there should be that creates a kind of emotional distance and restraint that makes many a should-be effective dramatic note underwhelming, if not just plain diesengaging, much like many other areas of the film. The film has its pick-ups, while keeping consistent in the charm and other strengths that keep you going through and through, yet it's not too hard to fall out of this film time and again, as it is just too steadily meandering and, on occasions, dramatically distanced to pick yp at that much momentum, thus film is left dragging along until it finally collapses short of potential. Still, it's not like the film falls too "low", because although this film stands to stand with more bite, it attracts your attention back time and again, or at least your eyes.
For the first time, cinematographer Aaron Schneider claims the director's chair, yet doesn't abandon his tastes for visual style that go brought to life quite well by David Boyd, for although this film isn't exactly a breathtaking piece of artistry, definition remains crisply detailed, with bouncing color and striking lighting that may not exactly be too striking, but claim your eyes time and again, with occasions in which it quite nearly claims your breath. The film's visual style is quite appealing, not necessarily being all that upstanding, yet handsome enough for your attention to go consistently capture, while what claims your investment is, if nothing else, simply the concept of the story, alone, even if it is one that was never really all that strong to begin with. This film's subject matter is hardly heavy, with about as much natural bite limiting as bite limiting through the aforementioned pacing and atmospheric issues, yet there is a fair degree of weight that is indeed undeniable and does indeed carry this film along with immediate intrigue, made all the sharper by what is, in fact, inspired in Aaron Schneider's direction. If nothing else, Scneider's ambition graces the film with striking charm that stands firm throughout the entirety of the execution of this story, and when Schneider does, in fact, succeed in drawing depth with effectiveness, the film gets to be moving in a way that shows you what this film could have been: a little bit better. Again, it's not like this film was ever going to hit all that hard, it's just that the final product's hit still isn't quite on par with the hit of the concept, yet the execution of the story, like the story itself, has its particularly inspired moments to break up a consistent charm and reasonably degree of engagement value, made all the stronger by writers Chris Provenzano's, C. Gaby Mitchell's and Scott Seeke's characterization, which could have been surrounded by more story flesh-out, yet remains well-written enough to do a decent job of establishing the colorful characters that this film finds itself really driven by. The film relies on the depths in characters whose depth stands to be more fleshed out before it can be heavily played up, yet the depth is still there and makes for some engaging characters, who wouldn't be as engaging as they ultimately are without the performers, none of whom have all that much material, yet many of whom have there particularly commendable moments to break up ceaseless charisma, whether it be owned by the always charming Bill Murray or by leading man Robert Duvall, whose charming and occasionally layered and moving performance particularly goes into the final product's being brought to life enough to keep pumping. There was never really too much livliness in the film's concept, and the final execution has even less, yet juice and inspiration remain, though not as much as the charm that really gets this film and, by extension, you by time and again.
In conclusion, steady pacing gets to be repetitious, as well as made all the worse by a blandly dry and occasionally all-out dull atmosphere that, alongside the moments of emotional distance, leaves the final product to meander ever so limply until it finally collapses as underwhelming, yet not at the expense of enough enjoyability to keep you going, as a handsome visual style and reasonably engaging premise - made all the more engaging by the occasional high point and consistent charm within Aaron Schenider's direction and across-the-board charismatic performances - stands firm enough to make "Get Low" a watchable charmer, even though it very well could have been more.
2.5/5 - Fair