Bill Murray “teaches us all how to live” in Tommy Avallone’s inspirational and enjoyable documentary The Bill Murray Stories.
If I were to mention Bill Murray, you’d probably think about his most memorable performances. From Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day to Lost in Translation and The Royal Tenenbaums, the versatile actor has been entertaining us whith his iconic, all-too-human characters for over thirty years. He gave us Dr Venkman and Steve Zissou, he was our favourite Scrooge and he came up with some of the most imaginative and hilarious cameos we’ve ever seen (Zombieland, Coffee and Cigarettes, Space Jam… The list goes on). And yet, his impressive career is not the only factor that makes Bill Murray one of the most beloved actors of our time.
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man is not one of those documentaries that goes through a celebrity’s career by concentrating on his filmography and adding a few anecdotes. In Tommy Avallone’s inspirational tale, those very same anecdotes are what matters the most, and the result is a thought-provoking, entertaining documentary that looks into Bill Murray’s most surprising adventures and teaches us a lesson on empathy.
Avallone has a special way of connecting with his audience. As he explains to us what prompted him to shoot this documentary and tells us about his many attempts to contact the actor – which were made even more difficult by the fact that Bill Murray is also famous for not having an agent – Avallone’s down-to-earth approach is what keeps us glued to the screen. “What happens when Bill leaves the set and goes back to being a normal guy?”, he asks, and our interest sparks. Because Bill Murray’s idea of a “normal guy” ‘s life is not so normal, after all.
Just as the titles suggests, The Bill Murray Stories does, indeed, revolve around a series of stories involving Bill Murray. And I’m not just talking about hilarious SNL spoofs or chance encounters with lucky fans: I’m talking about those kinds of stories that are so improbable and bizarre that you’d find it very hard to believe they actually happened. Did Bill Murray really photobomb a couple’s wedding photoand read poetry to construction workers? Is it true that he showed up at a college party and started washing everyone’s dishes? Avallone deconstructs these and many more Murray-related urban myths and takes us on a journey which is about so much more than these hard-to-believe stories.
This surprisingly intimate documentary will captivate you, keep you entertained and ultimately give you an understanding of a person that is so much more than an incredible actor. I’m not going to tell you about the actual stories, as the delicate way in which the narrative unfolds is part of what’s special about the film. You will discover these stories little by little as you watch the film, and your search will continue on Google, as you won’t be able to stop looking for more (this Facebook page is a great place to start!), but that’s not all. The Bill Murray Stories is not just about how Bill chooses to use his spare time: it is also about why he chooses to interact with us in this way, and that’s what makes the film even more interesting.
“Bill Murray’s life is an improv game” explains comedian/filmmaker Mark Malkoff as he describes Murray’s approach to life, which is, after all, what this documentary is all about. Bill Murray’s ability to live “in the moment” is precisely what makes it so hard for industry professionals to find out if he will make an appearance at promotional events and, at the same time, what makes it so much easier for absolute strangers to interact with him by chance and on a much deeper level. In director/producer Peter Farrelly’s words, “It’s not showing up to entertain: it’s showing up to be present”, and that is at the very essence of Bill Murray’s philosophy. In the era of selfies, social networks and celebrity sightings, there is a valuable lesson to learn from Bill Murray’s seemingly random appearences. “He’s teaching us all how to live” comments Gavin Edwards (author of “The Tao of Bill Murray”), and we couldn’t agree more.
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man is available to watch on Netflix.