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 well (no surprise) 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 … while he is still alive! 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 parts in this fine story. Sissy Spacek plays a painful link to Felix’ past, as well as a key to this latest/last event.
Excellent performances by Duvall, Spacek, and Bill Cobbs really make this one work. While Bill Murray and Lucas Black hold up their end by supplying a bit of humor and purity, respectively, 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.