TIFF 2014: Bill Murray's hidden film gems

(L-R) Bill Murray in Kingpin, Where the Buffalo Roam and What About Bob?

(L-R) Bill Murray in Kingpin, Where the Buffalo Roam and What About Bob?

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

I love Ghostbusters, you love Ghostbusters. And Stripes probably made me laugh out loud more than any other Bill Murray movie.

As for Groundhog Day, Murray’s stonefaced equanimity helped turn it into a pop cultural touchstone – an easy reference for the feeling you get when the mundane starts to feel like a feedback loop.

In between, there’s been a lot of Bill Murray worth seeing. Here are a few of my fave Bill moments.

WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM (1980): Yes, it’s utterly random, senseless and chaotic. But what did you want from a movie about Hunter S. Thompson? With respect to Johnny Depp’s portrayal, I’ll take this one. In real life, Murray endangered his life carousing with HST and stayed in character through much of the next season of Saturday Night Live.

THE RAZOR’S EDGE (1984): Too early in his career for anyone to embrace a serious portrayal of a man traumatized by WWI. People laughed at the first words out of his mouth in this actually quite savvy take on W. Somerset Maugham, and some walked when they realized it wasn’t a comedy. Watch it again, now that we’ve seen deeper shades of Bill.

QUICK CHANGE (1990): Probably the most underrated performance of Murray’s career – a rat-on-a-treadmill story predating Groundhog Day. Just that fact that he plays a bank-robbing clown named Grimm won me over. But this story of a gang that pulls a heist and can’t get out of New York, is seamlessly constructed and brilliantly delivered.

WHAT ABOUT BOB (1991):  If anybody has the understanding of how to get under someone’s skin, it would be Murray. He plays the patient-from-hell to psychiatrist Richard Dreyfus, insinuating himself into his life and that of his family. A brilliant and darkly subtle psychological comedy (and, I’d imagine, every mental health professional’s nightmare).

KINGPIN (1996): Love this movie. As the insanely egotistical bowling king Ernie McCracken, Murray is the hugely-favoured Goliath to one-handed amputee/bottom-tier con-man Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson). A meandering road trip involving an Amish bowling prodigy (Randy Quaid) leads to the juicy last act at a million-dollar lane tourney in Reno.

RUSHMORE (1998): The start of Wes Anderson’s love affair with Murray – the story of a weird relationship between an unsettled millionaire (Murray) and an eccentric teen (Jason Schwartzman), that morphs into war over a woman. The most accessible of Anderson’s weird visions, and both leads are perfect.

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004): Probably Anderson’s strangest offering, Jacques Cousteau as re-imagined while on magic mushrooms. And still Murray is up to the task.

ZOMBIELAND (2009):  Best. Cameo. Ever. (Although it’s more like a whole scene). Murray, plays himself, hiding out in his mansion from a zombie apocalypse, with Garfield as his only life regret.

HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON (2012): Murray was robbed of an Oscar nom here. I lined up to see this with, of all people, Conrad Black (author of a 200-pound book on FDR) who pronounced Murray’s portrayal second only to Ralph Bellamy (ask your grandparents). I thought Bill’s Roosevelt was a rogue-ish rascal that made a cardboard historical figure seem real. Inaccurate, maybe, but fun.

Twitter: @jimslotek

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca


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