You’ve heard the stories. He took engagement pictures with a couple whose photo shoot he stumbled across. He wandered past a kickball game in a park and invited himself to join in. He showed up at someone’s house party and washed all the dishes. These are just a few of the tales examined in the documentary The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man, which screened at Cinepocalypse 2018.
Director Tommy Avallone interviews some of the people who have had these unique encounters with the Ghostbusters star. We meet an Austin bartender who convinced Murray to serve drinks to patrons, a guy who sang karaoke with the actor, and a construction worker who was stunned to show up to a site one day and receive an impromptu poetry reading from Peter Venkman himself. Listening to these folks relate the incidents is fascinating because they clearly remain in awe of what happened and, as such, are more than happy to go into great, enthusiastic detail. In every case, they didn’t feel as though they met a celebrity, they had an experience with one. Cell phone footage of Murray in action is effectively used to compliment their recollections.
Several different journalists who have written about Murray also appear in the documentary, analyzing his penchant for impromptu stunts. Among the more intriguing suggestions is that he views life as his own personal improv sketch, giving him the chance to jump into the fray, ad lib, and see what happens. One interviewee even finds a thematic connection between several of the actor’s movies and his real-life actions.
Of course, he can get away with all this because he’s Bill Murray. No other celebrity could do it. There’s an inherently playful quality to his personality, and it makes all the difference. Behavior that could seem boorish or arrogant instead comes off as lovable. One of the most famous tales involves him stealing a french fry off someone’s plate in a restaurant. If a stranger did that to you, you’d probably be upset. But if Bill Murray did it…
Through the combination of personal anecdotes and informed speculation, Avallone’s film gets at a larger truth, which is that we can all learn something from Murray’s antics. Here’s a guy who lives in the moment. He participates in life. You won’t find him sitting in front of a computer screen, perusing Facebook. He’s out there, meeting people, doing things, and seemingly having the time of his life. We all need to embrace our inner Murray, Avallone seems to be saying.
The Bill Murray Stories is a cheerful, captivating movie that looks at celebrity through the eyes of a major star who marches to the beat of his own drummer — and might just pop up where you least expect him.