Get Low & Mission Combine to Fulfill the Ultimate Death Fantasies"/>
The Dinner: pulled-pork burrito, black beans and two pints of Dos Equis Amber at Mission in West Seattle's Admiral Junction.
Okay, we'll concede the likes of Ol' Felix are unlikely to occupy a barstool at Mission.
The Screenplate: Being entombed alive is no one's idea of a picnic, but what if, in that tomb, there were delicious burritos, kegs of Dos Equis, and too many types of tequila to pronounce? Welcome to Mission, an Admiral Junction mainstay that deserves to see the fruits of its patience ripen, now that West Seattle's sleepier junction has finally started to bustle a bit.
Mission is virtually windowless, with the only panes present on a top floor balcony that's generally only occupied when the main floor's fully spoken for. Hence, it's like drinking and eating in a tomb--a smartly-decorated tomb. Americanized Mexican restaurants typically tilt toward ornamental cheese and Drakkar Noir, a pair of interconnected traps Mission somehow escapes.
In Get Low, Robert Duvall plays a tough-as-nails hermit carpenter named Felix Bush with a wild, mangy beard who's relegated himself to the woods of Missouri for a decades-old transgression that he can't forgive himself for. His only friend is a mule--a guard mule, no less, as advertised on the hand-whittled no trespassing sign that's posted on the edge of his vast acreage--and he hunts and eats rabbit for supper (had we known that heading in, we'd have splurged on Staple & Fancy).
One day, he ventures into tow with a wad of cash he intends to use to pay for a funeral--his funeral. But there's a catch: He wants to attend while still conscious, bearing witness to all the crazy stories the townsfolk have cooked up about throughout his 40 years of exile. Ol' Felix has got quite the rep--murderous, even--and backs it up in an early scene by beating a man half his age to the ground with his cane. Smart money's that he's going to hell, unless he can muster the strength to ask forgiveness for the calamitous event that ruined his life, and ended the life of the only person he ever loved.
Felix finds a couple co-conspirators in a down-on-his-heels funeral home director (played by Bill Murray, delightfully deadpan as always) and a younger charge (Lucas Black, resembling a youthful Dennis Quaid), and goes on the radio to promote his "funeral party," sweetening the pot by saying that anyone who buys a $5 raffle ticket will have the opportunity to inherit his massive swath of forest once he passes on for real. The whole town comes, and it's a party--a funeral and wake all rolled into one, which exposes the weakness of actual funerals and wakes: the person being mourned/honored doesn't get to enjoy them. That's a raw deal, if you ask me, and Felix is having none of it.
It's been 27 years since Duvall, now 79, won his only Oscar, for Tender Mercies. He should at least be in contention for a career-capping statue here. With this film, he's like Dwyane Wade, surrounding himself with two equally talented pieces--Murray and Sissy Spacek--in an effort to conquer all, a surprising yet entirely commendable move by a humble craftsman who's made a career out of being perhaps the greatest character actor who's ever lived.
In that vein, let us not sell short the peformance of the 76-year-old Bill Cobbs as Felix's oldest friend, an Illinois preacher named Charlie Jackson. Contrary to reviews that have fawned all over the screen time Duvall and Spacek share together, it's Cobbs' scene with Duvall that's the most affecting in the entire movie. To give the victory speech, you not only need a Murray and a Spacek (LeBron James and Chris Bosh), you need a Cobbs. That's a lesson the Miami Heat failed to heed over the summer--and Udonis Haslem, you're no Bill Cobbs!