film review: the bill murray experience

After the end of her engagement, actress Sadie Katz copes in a way many of us may recognize: late night Google binges. On one of these rambling expeditions through the Internet she discovers a mythos surrounding Bill Murray. From all around the world, people claim to encounter him in ways that range from the unexpected but believable (crashing a kickball game at a public park, with a team picture afterwards as proof) to the outlandish (Murray stealing a french fry from a man’s dinner plate, calmly telling him, “No one will ever believe you.”). Katz, desperate for a touch of magic in her life, latches on to these phenomena. Never mind that their appeal lies in spontaneity; in poor imitation of an amateur sleuth, Katz means to track down a “Bill Murray Experience” for herself, by any means available.

Sadie Katz hunts down her idol in The Bill Murray Experience

Her initial investigation yields very little, just biographical details like Murray’s height, age, and number of children. Armed with knowledge of Murray’s penchant for golfing, and the tournaments he frequents, Katz and her girlfriends venture to Pebble Beach. They dress up in wacky outfits; Katz even buys nearly 100 balloons to hand over to her idol, all to no avail. Local headlines announce the actor’s absence— he’s busy filming a movie abroad. So much for research. After this letdown, what started as an eccentric distraction from heartbreak spirals into obsession. The friends who traveled to Pebble Beach grow tired of her antics and drift away. Her few professional contacts with a distant connection to Murray fail to offer help.

She finally breaks through with one of Bill’s siblings, Joel Murray, who also works in the entertainment industry. Over drinks he relates some of the long history of his brother’s shenanigans, while falling short of offering Katz a phone number or other way in. She comes close a second time when friends divulge that Murray will be on set at a house just down the street from them. This time she manages to glimpse him from afar before security bustles her and her second clutch of balloons away.

By far the best part of The Bill Murray Experience is a sit-down interview Katz conducts with P.J. Soles, Murray’s co-star in Stripes. Soles weaves several good behind-the-scenes stories, all of which live up to the Bill Murray mythology, and expands on the glimpse of hilarious reality given earlier by Joel. It’s a suggestion of what could have been: a documentary actually about Bill Murray, told by the countless co-stars, friends, and passer-by who’ve felt a touch of his comedic genius.

But this isn’t a documentary about Bill Murray; it’s a documentary about Sadie Katz, who stands as the single greatest obstacle in the way of enjoying The Bill Murray Experience. Never mind that by trying to engineer the impulsive and unpredictable she kills any magic of a run-in with Murray. From start to finish her film comes off as an ego trip, one long indulgence of Katz’s unendearing eccentricities. Many of her observations fail to rise above inanity—Why would you think a golf tournament would resemble Coachella?—and only serve to keep the focus on the movie’s least interesting subject.

Her admiration for Bill Murray practically oozes off the screen. Rather than attempting to use that as leverage for a meeting of personal importance, it’s disappointing that Katz didn’t instead focus that energy into preserving the memories of those who know him best. While the myth born of Bill Murray looms large in The Bill Murray Experience, we remain trapped in the tedious reality of a single fan.

RATING: ½ Star

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