Saturday, December 5, 2015
"A Very Murray Christmas" is the Christmas Special Gen X Needs
Murray is categorically a Boomer, but since we all saw Ghostbusters on VHS if not in the theater, he's been riding out in front of Gen X, the patron saint. Whether he was unflappably dealing with Gozer, an alien in his own skin in a Japanese hotel bar, or deciding to take his crew on an ill-fated voyage to the depths of the seas while they all wore matching outfits, he was the guy we aspired to be when we hit whatever age he happened to be in his latest project.
I dunno. Maybe that's just me. But I've ordered speedsuits for all of you. You'll have to attach your own name patches.
Few actors play exhaustion and pulling at the end of their wits and muttering about the insanity of it all to himself in quite the same manner as Murray. And that's kind of been the story of Generation X, something the Boomers weren't paying attention to as they Me-Generationed, and something the Millennials are oblivious to as they wonder aloud why more people aren't listening to their ideas.
Generation X is tired.*
The Boomers recognize Murray, but he's a comedian from a show they watched in their youth. Millennials claim Bill Murray, but like all things they seem to claim, it's an echo of what their elders were up to. From the time we caught Caddyshack on the neighbor kids' HBO or talked our folks into dropping us off at Scrooged, Gen X'ers knew - this is our guy.
Directed by Sofia Coppola, it will surprise maybe no one that Murray finds himself facing a live TV special broadcast from a New York City Hotel on a quiet Christmas Eve (aren't they all?). A blizzard knocks the city out of commission, leaving Murray with no guest stars, no audience, and only Paul Schaffer to accompany him on piano as his producers shove him in front of the camera. The show must go on. That is, until they lose power.
Technology fails us. Expectations and the needs of others supersede common sense. We make comment. We carry on. We have a drink when its available.
In the bar, Murray and Paul find the piano and join the staff and a few stray guests of the hotel, including a couple whose wedding plans have collapsed (Jason Schwartzman and the always lovely Rashida Jones) and one of my favorite SNL alums, Maya Rudolph as a barfly of fading glamour. Jenny Lewis is a waitress and Buster Poindexter the bar tender.
The fridge has lost power, so the food must be eaten, the cocktails consumed. It's a set-up no more nor less convoluted than the 70's and 80's-era Christmas specials where Bing Crosby welcomed David Bowie in for a song or three, or Bob Hope entertained us from his lodge with no fourth wall and a studio audience and a guest appearance by Brooke Shields. And the show follows the format. It's Murray singing mostly unapologetically alongside his guests (he and Chris Rock nail their number).
The only odd note of the whole thing is when they bring out Miley Cyrus so the folks under 30 can recognize someone on screen. To her credit, Coppola contains her. It may be the most tolerable anyone over 35 will ever find Her Tongueship.
You've probably seen the notices with the surprise at the lack of snark and irony. And it's true. Gen X is tired. We've done snark and irony for the past four decades until it lost all meaning, and no one else knew what we were on about, anyway. Now, maybe, we'd like to not be on the defensive for a night, and maybe believe that in the lonely hotel bars, in the midst of chaos we didn't create but we're being asked to not just to weather, but to manage, maybe here we can find a bit of kindness, or make a bit of joy.
Maybe a quiet night in a bar trying to remember the words to some songs is just what we needed right about now.
Of course the song we know the words to, that pulls us in around the piano, is the one about the junkies falling apart on Christmas, in jail, on a drip in a hospital. Still, there's a vision of a better Christmas, the one we see in our dreams, and it pulls from the past and future, and in that dream we're all Rat-Packers who know how to mix a martini while astride a piano bench.
You're getting older and the memory of Christmases of youth has become replaced by the inevitable accrual of Christmas Eves where the evening holds no anticipation of gifts, no waiting for Santa. But you've long since come to anticipate the quiet fade into the late hours when you put on some Christmas music and pour yourself a drink and, for once - with family, with friends, with strangers... have a moment of peace and quiet. And you're the last one to bed on Christmas Eve. You're used to seeing the house dark, the lights on timers not yet off, knowing the morning brings that bright glare and bustle and it'll start all over again for another year, but for now... it's silent.
And sometimes that barfly who is prettier than she ought to be sings some Darlene Love, and all is right with the world.
*You're all welcome for the internet, by the way. No problem on all that heavy lifting. We'll just let ourselves out. No, don't get up. It's cool.