Documentary film maker Tommy Avallone tackles the subject of Bill Murray, but not the man’s film career or life specifically. Rather he tells the story of the man’s unusual habit of showing up in people’s lives, often behaving in bizarre ways such as tending bar, serving as a roadie or even more strangely just behaving like a regular person. The film examines the veracity of “Bill Murray stories”, Murray’s potential motive for making these appearances and most interestingly the effect it is having on people. Avallone travels the country (and a bit of the world) to find people who have Bill Murray Stories to examine what they all actually mean.
There’s a surprising depth to Murray’s spontaneous pass time. There’s much for Avallone to explore. Firstly the reaction of the storytellers. People are genuinely delighted to just see Murray, to then have a genuine interaction with him makes for stories that people cherish. It does seem to affect people differently, some more superficially than others. It’s interesting that Avallone cuts from an interviewee asserting that Murray encourages people to live in the here and now, to get away from their devices with a shot of Murray facing a wall of cell phones trained on him. There’s definitely an aspect to the Murray stories of being able to brag to friends about meeting Bill Murray, and is therefore just a standard interaction with celebrity culture. However with Murray there’s something more going on.
Interactions with Murray in the stories are seldom just a selfie and a pleasant word. Murray arrives unbidden at parties and spends the entire evening. He comes to your local bar, learns your name and then comes back to ask for you later. His appearances and actions are spontaneous but fully committed, and everybody just goes with it. Murray seems to be using his celebrity status to break a barrier. By overcoming the awkwardness that exists between strangers with this baseline goodwill as a result of his fame he is able to have very authentic yet extraordinary interactions with the people around him. The film makers stress that he is espousing a philosophy in his actions, one of living fully in the moment and taking things as they come.
Every Bill Murray story ends the same way; with him disappearing just as quickly as he arrived. This lends a mythic quality to the man. There’s something messianic about the way he throws bottles of water to his adoring public. It’s fascinating to watch him make this magnanimous offerings of his time. The film makers interrogated a fascinating modern myth and the profound effects it has on those lucky enough to have a Bill Murray Story. Avallone does so whilst making his film funny, insightful and even moving.
Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man will be premiering at The BFI London Film Festival on 10TH October, 21:10 at Odeon Tottenham Court Road.