As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a hermit who has no regard for anybody in the town or anyone who wants to get to know him. But one day, after a fellow old hermit has died and he hears people in the town telling stories about him, he decides that he needs to get these stories out in the public. He recruits Frank (Bill Murray), the local funeral home director, to host his own funeral. This way he can hear what everyone is saying about him, and get the truth to his past out in the open. But will he be able to get anybody to come? And will he be able to reveal his secrets? Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. I am not familiar with director Aaron Schneider, who apparently has done mostly cinematography work on TV for the past 10 years. He must feel like a lottery winner getting to direct his first feature film and having a cast with Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek.
This is a very odd film centered on the story of 1930's Tennessee backwoods recluse Felix Bush, played exceedingly (no surprise) well by Robert Duvall. We learn - slowly - that Felix has been in a self-imposed exile carrying enormous guilt over an incident from 40 years prior. The wonderful thing is that it takes us just about the entire film to discover what caused this guilt and how Felix has dealt with it.
Over that 40 years, the legend of old man Bush has grown with the town people. It is approaching Tall Tale status when he whips up on a local wise-ass on one of his rare visits to town. When Felix realizes that stories have been concocted about him over the years, he heads to local funeral home to arrange a "funeral party" where everyone can come and tell their stories. The local mortician is played by Bill Murray and I can best describe his personality as eager opportunist.
While this appears to be a slow moving story, it really isn't. The real motivation for the party, a reconnection with the past and a cleansing confession all play a part in this fine story. Sissy Spacek plays a painful link to Felix' past, as well as a key to this latest/last event.
Three excellent performances by Duvall, Spacek and Bill Cobbs really make this one work. Bill Murray and Lucas Black hold up their end by supplying a bit of humor and purity, respectively, though the story really belongs to Duvall. His ability to convey emotion with a grunt or facial expression is just amazing to watch.
My only real complaint with the film is that it lasted about 2 minutes too long. The perfect ending had occurred and then we are dealt one final, seemingly forced scene. A minor quibble with a film that kept me fully engaged.
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