It's 1938, and Tennessee hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), in a self-imposed exile for 40 years, decides to throw himself a funeral while he's still alive to hear the speeches. He enlists Frank Quinn (Bill Murray, wonderful), the nearby town's funeral director, to make plans and post ads inviting people from all over to attend. For this imperfect but rewarding film, screenwriters Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, fictionalizing a true story, have given Felix a guilty secret that he's ready to unburden himself of, at long last, during the funeral. Despite a third-act stumble in which first-time director Aaron Schneider undercuts Duvall's wrenchingly confessional monologue with awkward staging and choppy editing, Get Low is a pleasure to watch. Sissy Spacek plays Mattie, Felix's old girlfriend, whose forgiveness he needs the most. Duvall and Spacek have three key scenes together, including one that finds Felix and Mattie walking together down a wooded road. Nothing much happens; they talk and laugh, and their bodies sway back and forth toward one another, like young lovers courting. After a time, he offers her his arm and she takes it, with a firm, happy clutch—two characters, two actors, at ease and in joy, delighting in one another's magic.
Murray is allergic to cornpone humor.
Opens at Guild 45 and Uptown, Fri., Aug. 13. Rated PG-13. 113 minutes.