Academy Award winner Robert Duvall (1983, Best Actor, Tender Mercies) is Felix Bush, the “Hermit of Caleb County,” a man so haunted by his secrets that he has lived in quiet desolation in the Tennessee backwoods for over 40 years. Realizing that he is near his own mortality, Bush decides to have a “living funeral party,” inviting people to tell their stories about him. Enlisting the help of Frank Quinn (Golden Globe winner Bill Murray, 2004, Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Lost in Translation) and Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black, Legion), Bush goes through a process of self-discovery, allowing him to deal with his past secrets, including ones involving old flame (and new widow) Mattie (Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek, 1980, Best Actress, Coal Miner's Daughter).
Comedies about death aren't exactly a novel proposition, but Get Low, which draws from a real 1930s incident, leaves the gallows humor behind for a lighter touch. After losing the love of his life 40 year before, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) has lived like a hermit ever since. With death on the horizon and guilt weighing him down, the “crazy ol' nutter” decides to go out with a party. As he tells funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray in top form), “Time for me to get low.” Frank and his assistant, Buddy (Duvall's Sling Blade costar Lucas Black), find the request bizarre–since Felix plans to attend–but they can't afford to turn him down. Quips Quinn, “One thing about Chicago, people know how to die. People are dying in bunches, but not around here.” So, they fit Felix for a suit, post invitations up around Caleb County, and set up a land raffle to encourage everyone to show. Before he leaves this mortal coil, Felix longs to hear the tall tales the town folk have been spreading about him. While preparing for the big day, he reconnects with Charlie (Bill Cobbs), a preacher, and Mattie (Sissy Spacek), an old flame who returned to the county after her husband's death. Their encounters, which have a gentle sweetness, encourage Felix to share the truth he's kept bottled up inside for decades. After that big buildup, his confession feels a little anticlimactic, but cinematographer-turned-director Aaron Schneider's affection for his characters always shines through. –Kathleen C. Fennessy