The star of this movie is Emma Stone, who you probably didn't see or notice in the movies Zombieland and Superbad. She certainly wasn't on my radar screen. But the minute she fills the screen at the start of this film you know this is one intelligent, young actress, and a budding Lucille Ball to boot. I won't go into the plot, because you can get that from the trailer and it isn't brain surgery. What this movie is, however, is extremely funny and surprising. Surprising because Stone is one hell of an actress and comedienne. Surprising because her hippie-dippy, very funny, too good to be true parents are played by Stanley Tucci (Julie and Julia, The Lovely Bones) and Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, Pieces of April), two actors usually found in much more serious movies but here, having the time of their lives. Her favorite teacher is Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), and her guidance counselor is Lisa Kudrow (Friends).
This is the perfect Friday night movie to kick back with after a long week and really have a good laugh. You won't be disappointed. And watch for Ms. Stone in the lead role ("Skeeter" Phelan) of the movie version of The Help, coming out soon. (Though not soon enough for those of us who have devoured the book.) Allison Janney plays her mother, and Sissy Spacek is Missus Walters.
Bringing up Sissy Spacek gives me the perfect segue into a discussion of this next movie that couldn't be more different from Easy A. It's called Get Low, and it stars Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray.
Let me say at the outset that I have had a crush on Robert Duvall since Lonesome Dove. I just love watching him work. He has a non-acting way of acting that shouldn't be as good as it is. But it is. And the crustier the character, the better. He was recently in Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges, but he was clean cut and sensible. Kinda boring. But show me a Robert Duvall who hasn't shaved in weeks and has a crazy twinkle in his eye, and I am entranced.
Well, this role in Get Low may be the epitome of crusty and crazy for him, and he hits it right out of the park. It is a period drama, based on a true story of a 1930s Tennessee hermit named Felix Bush (Duvall). Bush decided that he wanted to throw his own funeral so he could hear what people had to say to him.
When I first saw Duvall in this movie I wanted to gasp in shock and disbelief. His hair is long, his beard is long. He looks ancient and decrepit. (This is the point where, seeing an actor I really like looking old and haggard, I silently pray that it is mostly make-up.) He has been keeping to himself for 30 years because of an incident long ago that left his true love dead, and he blames himself. Duvall is simply a wonder to watch in this role, and I kept wondering, is it possible that this performance COMPLETELY missed the Oscar nominations? How did that happen?
Sissy Spacek (glowing, but again, please let those wrinkles be make-up) comes to town and reunites with Duvall. They had a relationship 30 or 40 years ago, and Spacek is the sister of the woman who died. Spacek is dignified and beautiful and her eyes are like deep pools of water that hold a torrent of emotion.
Bill Murray is the town funeral director who agrees to set up this strange party for Duvall. When I see Bill Murray in a movie I expect to see irreverence and comedy, and that was true here, but in such a restrained way that Murray supplies this character with deep emotion and humanity. As I watched him tiptoe up to a situation that could easily be a comedic moment for him, and then treat it with the utmost warmth and respect by underplaying it, I wanted to yell "Bravo!"
The trailer makes this look like it is a much lighter movie than it is. Don't be fooled. It isn't what I would call dark, but it is pretty serious. And definitely worth your time. Be sure to check the special features to hear how the story was written, and listen to a panel discussion with the actors, producers, and the first-time director.
And that music that will haunt you at the end? Alison Krauss singing "Lay My Burden Down."