After the death of a friend, mysterious hermit Felix Bush (Duvall) decides it's time to get low, put his affairs in order. So he hires the local undertakers (Murray and Black) to throw a funeral party before he dies. While this will help him clear the air, it also undermines the dangerous reputation that's guaranteed his privacy for so long. It also means confronting a dear old friend Mattie (Spacek) about a dark event from their past. And more importantly, making peace with himself.
Director Schneider beautifully captures the quiet rhythms of this isolated town, where everyone knows each others' business and reputations are made or lost by a casual whisper. Duvall brings to Felix a haunted quality that goes far beneath the surface; we know he's not a bad guy even though everyone, including Felix himself, thinks he is. His interaction with Murray's hilarious opportunist is packed with sharp wit. And Spacek brings her usual luminosity along with some potent dramatic weight.
Through it all, Black is our surrogate, a likeably naive young man through whose eyes we experience the events. Cinematographer David Boyd gorgeously captures the textures--woodgrain, shafts of sunlight, crinkled skin. And the dialog, while subdued and sometimes oblique, is packed with tension and humour.
Felix likes his reputation as a "crazy old nutter", and looks forward to finally putting his soul back in order.
As a tale of personal redemption, films don't get much more moving than this.
Watching Felix come slowly back to life, including his sweet/tetchy interaction with Mattie, is a pure cinematic delight. We can vividly feel his struggle; we know what its like to have things we can't or won't talk about, and sometimes it's hard to know the difference since good and bad are generally all tangled up together. This isn't a film for audiences that like action or high energy, but it's a real thing of beauty.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Friday 22nd October 2010
Box Office USA: $9.2M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: K5 International, Zanuck Independent, David Gundlach Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 118 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Aaron Schneider
Producer: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck
Screenwriter: Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell
Starring: Bill Murray as Frank Quinn, Sissy Spacek as Mattie Darrow, Robert Duvall as Felix Bush, Lucas Black as Buddy, Bill Cobbs as Rev. Charlie Jackson, Gerald McRaney as Rev. Gus Horton, Scott Cooper as Carl, Chandler Riggs as Tom