In the backwoods of Depression-ravaged Tennessee, grizzled hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) emerges after 40 years of solitude. Though he’s lived with only mules and dogs for company, the town rumor mill has already invented stories of Felix that range from him killing men in fights to shooting trespassing children. But Felix doesn’t want to kill. He wants to party.
He wants to throw himself a funeral, while he’s still alive, inviting everyone in four counties to come and tell a story about him. The local preacher (Gerald McRaney) turns Felix down when he refuses to seek spiritual guidance. Taking on the task is failing funeral home director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), who smiles at the hermit’s oddities while lusting after the soiled wad of money he offers. Reconnecting with an old flame (Sissy Spacek), Felix begins to seek forgiveness for an act that has kept him away for years.
With actors like Duvall, Spacek and Murray, quality performances are a lock. The story, based on a true tale in the Depression-era South, is a mix of bleak drama and corn-pone humor. Throughout it all Duvall, who is already generating Oscar buzz, shines as a wily old coot manipulating the action.