Robert Duvall and Faith

July 27, 2010

From NPR Some call Robert Duvall’s upcoming movie a mystery, some a love story. For many, Get Low is about mortality, sin and redemption. The Oscar-winning actor seems drawn to stories about faith — but not to Hollywood’s stereotypes. Duvall’s character in Get Low is hardly a good and Godly hero. Felix Bush looks ancient when he walks into a funeral parlor in a small Tennessee town in the 1930s. He has a long beard, weary face and wary eyes. He’s a hermit, but in an early scene, he ventures out to tell the funeral director that he wants a party — a funeral party. “And I want to be there,” he says. “You will be, I guarantee it,” says the funeral director, played by Bill Murray. When Felix says he wants to attend his own funeral party, alive and kicking, the director — eager to make any money in the depressed economy, replies: “It’s a detail.” It turns out, Felix Bush has a secret, one that has driven him away from his family, cost him his friendships and sent him into virtual exile for 40 years. “You know, when I prepared for the part, I tried to find a sense of solitude. Because that’s what this character experiences … a great sense of solitude,” Robert Duvall said in an interview at his farm in The Plains, Va. “And within that solitude, I’m sure he thought about the powers that be, beyond us and what’s to come and so forth. But you don’t like set out to make a movie about that. You just let those things off-handedly lay there within the character.” Duvall’s character wants absolution. But when he goes to a minister to ask him to speak at his funeral, the minister asks him if he’s “made peace with God.” Felix is silent. “Mr. Bush, you can’t buy forgiveness. It’s free, but you do have to ask for it,” the minister says. But Felix won’t ask. Why should he beg God for mercy when “I never did nothing to Him.” Ultimately, this story is about rejecting cheap, religious grace and seeking the forgiveness of the people you have loved — and hurt. That defiance matches Duvall’s own philosophy. “Why on this side of the grave does a preacher or a man have that power to send me to heaven or hell?” he asks. “I don’t buy that. So, I think if there is a judgment day — IF — it will be on the other side of the grave.” Fighting Stereotypes Duvall pioneered this more understated approach to faith in his 1983 film Tender Mercies. His performance earned him an Oscar and the enthusiasm of Christian moviegoers. His character, Mac Sledge, is a once-famous country music star who is broken by drink. He does not find redemption in a fiery born-again experience; indeed, after his baptism he confesses he doesn’t feel very different — “not yet” at any rate. His redemption comes gradually, through his love for the Christian woman who befriends him. Jesus doesn’t fix his problems or make for smooth sailing, either, and he has a crisis of faith when his daughter is killed in a car accident. “I don’t trust happiness,” the character says. “I never did and I never will.” His faith survives, but the movie never tells us why. Click here to read the entire article.


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