By: Trevor Chartrand
On the internet, rumors and stories spread wildly, and most people are logical and cautious enough to question everything they read online. Folks often dismiss fantastical, source-less narratives because, come on, that never could have happened, right? Well, maybe not. A new documentary titled The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man examines one of these online rumors and proves that there’s some validity here – so maybe we should believe, or at least consider, everything we read.
The rumours explored in this film, as the title would suggest, are the alleged stories of comedian/celebrity/ghostbuster Bill Murray and his unusual knack for inserting himself into people’s lives in unique ways. Bill has been known to steal french fries, to cover people’s eyes in the washroom, and even to crash house parties where he proceeds to clean everyone’s dishes. Almost every story ends with Bill Murray telling the person, “no one will believe you.”
In the film, director Tommy Avallone meets with people who have shared these stories, discussing a series of comedic encounters with the enigmatic man. Avallone also probes deeper, asking each person what they’ve taken away from their experience with Bill, the chameleon who infiltrated their lives unexpectedly. Every subject has a different interpretation of Bill and his motivations, but they all walk away with a similar perspective – a newfound ‘seize the day, live in the moment’ outlook on life.
There appears to be a universal understanding that when Bill Murray inserts himself into the daily lives of random people, it’s not as the centre of attention. Instead of the life of the party, Bill becomes a modest member of whatever group he’s joined. He proves to his fans that celebrity is just a word, and that he’s ‘just like all of us’. During their experiences with Bill, these people recognize his boldness and strive for a similar, ‘yes and’ approach to life. This recurring theme may feel forced at first, but after hearing countless people taking the same lesson away from Bill Murray, this simple film suddenly becomes surprisingly eye-opening.
Earlier this year, I looked at a film with a similarly long title called The Coolest Guy Movie Ever: Return to the Scene of the Great Escape. Now that documentary, featuring a group of superfans revisiting locations where The Great Escape was shot, has a lot in common with The Bill Murray Stories. Both films are about travel, discovery, and exploring well-known stories. In The Bill Murray Stories, however, filmmaker Tommy Avallone avoids the pitfalls of The Coolest Guy Movie Ever. And it’s not just because there’s greater production value here, or finer attention to detail, or even a more structured narrative.
What really matters is that the director has constructed meaning and relevance for the viewer in this film. You don’t have to be a Bill Murray fan to appreciate the message of The Bill Murray Stories. While both these documentaries explore subject matter the filmmakers are passionate about, The Bill Murray Stories is the one that makes the effort to have its audience care, too.
For the most part this is a fluff piece, but The Bill Murray Stories is an easy and entertaining watch, featuring a lot of fun people sharing their personal stories. Never taking itself too seriously, the stories are often punctuated with recreations featuring a man wearing a Bill Murray mask that’s both haunting and hilarious. The film pays honest tribute to a pop culture icon and his unique perspective on the world, and shares his positive message in a way that will leave viewers feeling warm and fuzzy all over.
It’s a simple story, simply told. What more can you ask for?
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor