It’s rare to meet a film buff who doesn’t love at least one Bill Murray film. A few of my favorites include Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Lost in Translation — the latter being one of my all-time favorite films. As an actor, Bill Murray is a talented performer who plays a large role in making his films successful. Yet as a person, Murray also appears to have an effect on real-life people, an effect known as The Bill Murray Experience — which this documentary focuses extensively on to unexpectedly uncomfortable levels.
The “Bill Murray Experience” happens when Bill Murray randomly shows up to an event and brightens peoples’ lives in unique and/or bizarre ways. Small-time actress Sadie Katz becomes obsessed with finding and being a part of her own Bill Murray Experience after a painful breakup. Sadie decides to film her experience of finding Bill Murray, bringing her friends along to assist and add some element of “friendship” to her documentary.
The Bill Murray Experience is an interesting premise for a fictional film—as a documentary, however, the premise is more awkward and troubling. Sadie does try going about finding Bill Murray in the least stalker-ish way possible by trying to “set-up” a random Bill Murray encounter (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one). Stories like these are usually more about the journey than the destination (Sadie even states such in her own words)—the problem is The Bill Murray Experience doesn’t have much substance to its journey. A good chunk of the documentary is just a bunch of stoned women ambling around the country looking for Bill Murray, before turning into Sadie searching alone after a big offscreen fight between her and her friends.
The film continuously cuts to set-ups where Sadie explains how the journey has changed her rather than letting the journey speak for itself. Such style is most likely because the journey doesn’t actually express such changes, and/or such potent moments were never filmed. The significant scenes filmed are uncomfortable to watch—such as when Sadie interviews Bill’s brother Joel, who sounds so dejected when asked (after Sadie bribes him with alcohol) about his “great and more successful” brother.
Countering such uncomfortableness, however, are fun animated sketches detailing either Sadie’s schemes or various Bill Murray Experiences. There are also numerous interviews with Bill Murray fans where they detail amusing stories about why they love the actor. The stories and animations add color to the documentary while building up Bill Murray’s legacy—serving to mystify Murray to some legendary status as well as hyping Sadie’s eventual meeting with the man himself. They also serve to break up the plot from Sadie’s increasingly concerning obsession over meeting Bill Murray
Sadie’s pursuit of Bill Murray begins as a fun, only slightly creepy adventure—having an air of humorous acknowledgment from Sadie—yet descends into disturbing mania as the actress goes into full-on stalker mode. There’s a scene where Sadie tries to make it on the set of a Bill Murray film while carrying one hundred balloons as a gift for the actor. She is, understandably, stopped by a police officer and tries explaining her situation—telling him she can hear her heartbeat in her ears while trying to flirt her way out of the situation to meet her target.
Sadie’s fixation with Bill Murray ends up driving away her friends and, eventually, causing a mental breakdown where she checked herself into UCLA for exhaustion. What could have been an amusing documentary ends up being a worrying experience. Sadie comes across as an unstable person trying to pass off an unhealthy obsession with an actor as an inspirational documentary. When Sadie finally “meets” Murray, the meeting is far more uncomfortable than satisfying. The Bill Murray Experience’s grand conclusion and summary feel superficial and fake—not at all convincing me that Sadie has finally found a balanced state of mind. From viewing The Bill Murray Experience, I truly believe Sadie still requires additional help, whether it be from family, friends or a psychologist.