A slow-burn rural drama that seems to unfold somewhere between real-life and deep-fried folk tale, feature debut director Aaron Schneider’s 1930s-set Get Low centers around Felix Bush (Robert Duvall, again trading in crazy-old-coot mode), an irascible hermit who lives in a cabin at the wooded edge of a small Tennessee town, where everyone seems to have heard a frightening story about him. Felix approaches funeral services director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray, amusingly projecting both self-interest and sincerity) and his assistant Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), wanting to throw a funeral party… for himself, while he’s alive. Concocting a plan wherein townsfolk gather to share tales about him and he auctions off his land via lottery, Felix tries to work up the courage to share his own story. When he finds himself increasingly nervous as the date approaches, however, he turns to a figure from his past for some help.
The mystery driving this narrative forward, of course, is the nature of Felix’s self-imposed four-decade isolation, and that small stakes X-factor mostly works for the movie in a fairly low-key way. In the end, the dramatic payoff here is pretty mundane — a personal unburdening involving a former beau (Sissy Spacek) that has no real cathartic consequences for anyone else, and barely even really for Felix. It might not completely warrant Get Low‘s malingering pace, but serves as a reminder that the pleasures of life as frequently lie in the journey as the destination. Fans of Secondhand Lions, Starting Out In the Evening and Junebug take note. (Sony Classics, PG-13, 100 minutes)