Robert Duvall did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for several critical awards as well as Sag, for portraying Felix Bush in Get Low.
Robert Duvall unlike some of his contemporaries never has given up on giving his all in his performances. Duvall has kept showing passion in his portrayals throughout his career and it is a real shame the the academy failed to recognize him for his work here as he would have been the best of nominees had he been nominated. Duvall once again shows himself to be the great actor he is in his portrayal here as the hermit Felix Bush who lives in a lonely cabin in the woods advising all to keep away, until suddenly he comes to the nearby town to explain his wish to make some sort of peace through his strange idea to have his own funeral party without having to be dead.
Early on the film Bush is a scraggly sort with a long unkempt beard and the general appearance of the type of man you would expect from a hermit who lives in a cabin in the woods. Duvall instantly sinks his teeth into this character right away finding just the right way to play the part as Duvall usually does. He meets the demands of the hermit in an interesting and effective fashion. On one hand he does convey very much the hermit everyone wants to keep away from. He is cold in his own way, and he suggests a certain danger in the man. Duvall makes it entirely understandable why everyone would keep away from him as well as why so many would believe some of the stories that have been heard about him.
Duvall at the same time though shows that Bush probably is not all that they see either. Yes there is a coldness and a bluntness in his method of dealing with outsiders but there is not any cruelty in Duvall's eyes though either. When one of the towns people harasses Bush causing Bush to give him a quick beat down, Duvall very much shows it very much as just a quick reaction to dealing with behavior, and their is no real ill intent in him. Anything about him that is distance is not a distance formed of hate or anything even remotely close to as played by Duvall, it is something entirely different that Duvall perfectly alludes to early on. He keeps what keeps Bush away an undeniable mystery, but Duvall makes it clear that once you know Bush it is not due to him being a monster.
Like the funeral home director (Bill Murray) and one of his employees (Lucas Black) when we get to spend a little more time with Bush he makes all the more apparent that he is no monster. Duvall actually as we meet Bush more takes a rather gentle approach as Bush. He even has a nice bit of humor in his performance which he brings naturally in his portrayal of the old loner. Duvall knows how to bring this semi comedic elements well into the part by just blending it into his distinct personality with such flawless ease. This humor also is important to show that Bush is a complex man who is not only defined by his past, and Duvall establishes through this humor that there was once probably a very lively man that lived with the name Felix Bush.
It would have really easy for him to have been just a grumpy old man, or just a very sad one but Duvall gives a nice portrait of variety with the old man. One particularly great way Duvall handles the part is in the way that Felix asks about the stories about him. Even though the stories are never positive Duvall subtly suggests a bit of a curiosity in Felix as well as even a bit of a bemusement that he would be able to create such gossip with his life. Duvall honestly actually has a great deal of warmth in his performance more than one would expect from the old hermit. He does though always in a quiet manner that never compromises the nature of the man. There is a warmth but a shy retiring one almost like he tries to close it off a bit just like he tries to be closed off from the world.
There is an overarching sadness in Duvall's performance though that suggests why Felix closed himself off from the world. Although it is not always overwhelming Duvall never makes it the only part of Felix but he does make it an essential part. He establishes a pain there a sorrow that is very much deep in his bones. It is not that he is just sad but rather there is a true tragedy suggested by his eyes something that he cannot completely forgot about even when he is having a fine time. His scenes with Sissy Spacek, as Felix's old girlfriend as well as the sister of the woman who he has a picture of in his own, are all terrific. The two great actors together tell the past of the two both the fond memories but as well very much the shared memory of the sadness they share which haunts them both.
Duvall builds quite effectively to what exactly pains Felix so much to the scene where they finally do hold the funeral party where Felix finally offers his confession of what precisely haunts him. Duvall is absolutely brilliant in this scene as he recall the terrible memory and this scene can be put up there with the greatest moments in his illustrious career. It is a beautiful scene as Duvall has Felix vividly recall what happened to him in all of its heartbreaking deal and it is a wondrous moment as an overwhelming amount of emotion pours out from the man who refused to reveal his pain for so many years. Duvall is outstanding as he completely earns the moment and it truly feels like a man finally letting go of something that has kept so sheltered for so long.
It really shows the quality of this performance that Duvall does not just stop after the pivotal moment and he has one more terrific moment as we see Felix finally being a man of contentment. The pain is lost and it is in a way almost as powerful as the speech itself by portraying what his confession has finally given him. This is an another amazing performance by Robert Duvall create a fascinating character out of the hermit. The idea of the funeral is interesting all on its own, but Duvall is the one who makes it something so special by delivering with this great character. It is terrific just to watch Robert Duvall knock a role right out the park once again with that same ease and naturalism that he has brought to his characters throughout his long career.