Bill Murray is easily the first actor I was aware of as a kid. Peter Venkman was one of my favorite characters, and Ghostbusters was the first film I ever saw in the theater. A few years ago, my students and I became obsessed with the idea of having Bill Murray come to our film class and sought to attract attention to us. In the process, we created a film viewing club at the school and went through as much of his catalog as we were able to. Thus, The Bill Murray Experience (2017) felt like a parallel to my own story, and I had to give it a watch.
The Bill Murray Experience is more for fans of Sadie Katz than Bill Murray
Sadie Katz becomes obsessed with having one of the legendary Bill Murray experiences made famous by the internet. Her documentary takes two paths in its storytelling: one path animates several of these mythical stories that have arisen on the internet about Bill Murray showing up unexpectedly at various events (weddings, restaurants, birthdays, etc) and doing something fairly silly or wild. These events all depict Murray as if he is a magical being, showing up from nowhere and casting a spell on those involved that leaves them spellbound.
The other path and the real focus of the documentary follow Katz as she tries to create her own Bill Murray experience. It is extremely self-indulgent, as the film follows this actress trying over and over to put herself in a position to meet Bill Murray. She goes full internet stalker, and manages to even track down his brother, Joel Murray, and – after several beers – is able to get an interview with him about his brother. Between her insistence that her Bill Murray experience will involve far too many balloons, which never pans out, and slowly alienating herself from her friends who tire of her persistence in making this happen, the documentary feels more like a reality TV show than a documentary. There are some interviews, but they are few and far between and are often more about Katz emphatically asking about Bill Murray to people who don’t have a whole lot to say. Of course, there are moments that reminded me of the TV show “COPS”, as the camera operator struggles to keep up with Katz while they chase down another false lead.
Overall, the film isn’t a needed one to see. It doesn’t educate the audience much in any way, and the ending isn’t really satisfying. Katz was going through a major “crossroads” in her life and found some solace or at least avoidance by pursuing this quest. While I can relate to the desire to meet a hero, it doesn’t necessarily translate into an entertaining experience. The Bill Murray Experience earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.