Think you’re a big Bill Murray fan? Check out these lesser-known films

bill-murray-st-vincentBy Richard Crouse & Mark Breslin – Metro Reel Guys

On Sept. 5, the Reel Guys will be wearing our matching glow-in-the-dark Dr. Venkman khaki T-shirts to celebrate TIFF’s Bill Murray Day. Beginning at 10 a.m., the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto will feature free screenings of Stripes, Groundhog Day and, everybody’s favourite, Ghostbusters, in advance of the world premier of Murray’s new movie St. Vincent. “I’m a nut,” Murray says, “but not just a nut.” His movies, which range from nutty comedies to dramas and everything in between, show his range. Today, as we celebrate the genius that is Bill Murray, the Reel Guys select a few must-sees.

Richard: Mark, I feel happy just knowing that I live in the same world as Bill Murray. I’ve never met him, but his very existence and the existence of films like Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation and any of his movies with Wes Anderson make my world a better place.

If I had to choose one little-seen Murray movie to tout, it would be Where the Buffalo Roam — his take on the life of the high priest of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson. It’s not a great film, but it’s worth it to hear Murray say the famous line, “I hate to advocate drugs or liquor, violence, insanity to anyone, but, in my case, it worked.”

Mark: Richard, here’s my pick for a little-known film starring Murray: The Razor’s Edge. At the height of Murray’s first round of fame, he managed to miscast himself in a Somerset Maugham costume drama about a man’s search for spirituality.

His acting style is completely at odds with the rest of the material, as he’s playing the part as a louche 19th-century wiseass. And you know what? I love it!

Also from this time period, the mid-’80s, is the underrated Scrooged, a great retelling of A Christmas Carol. Traditionalists who fondly remember Alistair Sims would be aghast, but Murray really knows how to shake off the cobwebs and make the movie funny and oddly touching.

RC: Have you seen Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson? He plays Franklin D. Roosevelt and he gives the kind of effortless performance that made me wonder what might have happened to his career if The Razor’s Edge hadn’t been such a flop, forcing him back into comedy. But he can switch back and forth easily.

The same year he played an undertaker in Get Low, he also played an exaggerated version of himself as a man who plays at being a zombie during the apocalypse so he can continue playing golf unbothered by the undead in Zombieland.

It’s a surreal cameo that, like most of Murray’s appearances, is worth the price of admission.

MB: There may be bad movies that Bill Murray is in but there are no bad Bill Murray movies. He consistently rises above the material. But when the script is top-notch, there is no beating him.

I’m thinking here of Groundhog Day — one of the best and smartest comedies of the past 30 years.

He takes a clever idea and turns it into something transcendent, even philosophical. Great movie, great performance.

RC: In the transcendent and philosophical pile, I’d throw in Broken Flowers, where Murray plays a man on a journey to reconnect with all the women he knew before he became a burned-out Don Juan.

Ebert gave this four out of four stars; I give it five out of four. It’s that good.

MB: Yes, a great role for him. But consider this: his supporting role in Tootsie, where he nearly steals scenes from the great Dustin Hoffman.


hyde-park-on-hudson-poster1Taking a lead from last years’ “My Week with Marilyn,” a bio that concentrated on just seven tumultuous days in the turbulent life of Marilyn Monroe, and recycling a character seen twice in as many years on the big screen, “Hyde Park on Hudson” tells a time compressed story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s extramarital affairs and meeting with King George VI.

Based on true events the movie begins with FDR (Bill Murray) summoning his fifth or sixth cousin, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), “it depends on how you count,” she says, to keep him company at his country resort, Hyde Park on Hudson in New York. It’s June of 1939, the Depression rages on and World War II is mere months away.

FDR uses the country home to “forget the weight of the world,” and carry on an extra martial affair with Margaret. The quiet idyll of the retreat is disturbed when the President welcomed the King (Samuel West) and his wife, the Queen Consort Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), who came calling for American support should war erupt.

Despite the racy subject matter—FDR’s appetite for the ladies—there is nothing torrid about “Hyde Park on Hudson.” It is said over and over that the President needs peace and quiet, and that mantra establishes the tone of the film. Director Roger “Notting Hill” Michell has made a subtle film set in polite society, amongst the social class who treat each other with quiet restraint. That kind of restraint is the order of the day, both in the performances and story.

Some will find it slow and meandering but the movie’s beauty lies in its leisurely pace. It’s a study of a different time, a time, were respect and decorum ruled.

At the center of it all is Bill Murray. The supporting cast is good, in fact better than good, but Murray gives the kind of effortless performance that makes one wonder what might have happened to his career if his first dramatic outing, “The Razor’s Edge,” hadn’t been such a flop, forcing him back into comedy.

“Hyde Park on Hudson” is a quiet film that may make some noise at Oscar time.