Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy 65th, Bill Murray

Today marks Bill Murray's 65th Birthday.  And while we never say it out loud, I'd posit that Bill Murray is one of the greatest actors of his generation.

People like Bill Murray, there's no question.  And his willingness to participate in surprising ways in films (see: the otherwise waste of a movie Zombieland) has become a bit of a calling card for him as he's made the very real realization that he is free to do as he likes, and movie-dom's acceptance that he's at his best when he's given a long leash.

Like a lot of my generation who were too young to stay up late enough for SNL, my first exposure to Murray was not the racy Caddyshack, which I didn't see until middle school, but the cultural megalith of Ghostbusters, which my mom took me to see opening day.*

I dig those early roles and his SNL stint.  Stripes.

Murray wasn't really pigeonholed from the start.  He did The Razor's Edge (no, I've never seen it), and never quite got locked into any particular character with which he became identified even as the roles became distinctly his own.  There's not a lot of similarities between Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters), Bob Harris (Lost in Translation), Bunny Breckinridge (Ed Wood), Frank Cross (Scrooged) or Raleigh St. Clair (The Royal Tenenbaums).

Probably my favorite role is from Rushmore as Herman Blume, the life-weary corporate mogul who is coming to terms with the failure of all parts of his life that aren't related to his business and finds a bit of a friend and inspiration and competition in Max Fischer.

If there is a thread between the parts, particularly his later roles, maybe it's the exhaustion the characters wear on their sleeve.  He gets what it means to be at the end of your rope, that it's not anger that sets in but, often, a sense of resignation.  Watching the characters climb back out against that point (or, in the case of Raleigh St. Clair, head towards that resignation) is what makes the performances interesting.  And, frankly, relatable.  Right up to and including Steve Zissou.

Here's to Bill on his 65th.  May the Garfield money have bought him many rounds of golf and a couple of good bottles of something.

*you're the best, Ma!  Dad, you still get point for getting me to many action movies, not the least of which is Empire Strikes Back opening weekend.  I haven't forgotten!

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