April 4, 2018 The Bill Murray Experience (Documentary Review)
When confronted by their favorite star, most people would reach for their camera or autograph book. For Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort 2014, Party Bus to Hell 2017), it results in a self-written and directed Documentary entitled The Bill Murray Experience. Produced by Red Rabbit and Shadow Kamera films, and set to hit DVD Friday, April 13, 2018 via Gravitas Ventures, Katz documents her year-long quest to meet the man who busted ghosts, relived the same day for over a decade, and introduced the Prefab Four to America… Bill Murray.
Yet, it is not just any kind of meeting. The title refers to Murray’s occasional habit of popping up at social events out of nowhere; sports games, wedding parties, in a golf cart on a Swedish highway, etc. These ‘experiences’ have even gone down in urban legend. The most common one involves Murray pranking someone at a train or subway station, telling them “no one will ever believe you,” and then disappearing into the night like some benign version of the Joker. After a personal setback in her life, Katz looked into these events, and thought she would like to experience that too. It may be as fleeting as a prank on a subway, or even full attendance and some life advice like at the wedding party. Either way, Katz figured it was the pick-me-up she needed.
She is not doing this alone either, as she has three friends involved in her hunt for Murray. Genevieve Marie (The Fate of Phoenix 2011, Details 2018) acts as camerawoman and cinematographer. While Jennifer Lieberman (Dumpwater Divas 2015, Leash 2016) and Jennifer Wenger (Wonder Woman from Jimmy Kimmel Live, Super Power Beat Down, 2015’s Confessions) help with research and pitch ideas. For example, they suggest finding out who represents him legally. Least that way this Documentary does not end up becoming the non-fiction equivalent of 1990’s Misery. This is not to mention the eclectic mix of people she meets along the way, be they Murray’s former co-stars, or cult-favorite Horror directors.
It is presented through a mix of live-action footage, and cartoon animation by co-producer Jim Towns (66 Horror Flix series, Manhaters! 2012). The former details Katz and crew at work, while the latter illustrates the many different anecdotes about Murray’s antics. Heard the one about how he ended up in 2004’s Garfield? Or how he ended up washing dishes at Prince William’s former university? It is all here in simple, stylish animation. It is not exactly high-end quality, but it illustrates the point and adds a bit of flavor to the proceedings.
The live-action portion plays more like a road trip diary, peppered with vox pops on Murray’s legacy, interviews and Katz’s post-event recollections. It is not exactly a serious exposé like Documentaries by Louis Theroux (The Most Hated Family in America 2011, My Scientology Movie 2017) or Nick Broomfield (Biggie & Tupac 1997, Whitney: Can I Be Me 2017). It does not reveal some dark side Murray may have. If anything, the audience learns more about Katz, and what her plan to experience something spontaneous costs her. For such a light-hearted presentation, her dedication (or obsession) gets a little worrying. She may not be alone in her Murray-mania, but others do not take it to the same lengths as she.
That is not to say she is not self-aware. But that would be revealing the destination before the journey gets underway. If anything, the conclusion softens the preceding events, bringing it back to a more innocent base. Still, recommending it is difficult. There are some nice folksy tunes on the soundtrack by the likes of Carrie Jo Hubrich or StefM. The anecdotes are interesting too, though there are plenty of other resources that list them in detail too. Katz’s story does get intriguing, darkly so in places, and that can only be found in this film. Murray-maniacs may get something out of it, but it may suit those looking into the cult of celebrity even better. As such, CrypticRock gives The Bill Murray Experience 3 out of 5 stars.