This Bill Murray?

Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, in a longish (and at points very interesting) post making a number of different comparisons, has this to say about Ross Douthat:

But Ross Douthat is nowhere so obvious. He is, after all, a Harvard man, as he will not hesitate to remind you. Not for our Ross the cheap laffs of mere physical comedy. He has a subtler and longer-lived role model: Bill Murray, the Maynard G. Krebs of the mid-1970s. Murray has made a profitable career out of being The Guy Who’s A Little Too Hip for the Room.

I don’t know about the application of this idea to Ross (whom I generally enjoy reading).

My point,rather, is to ask whether this is even correct about Bill Murray.

The “Little Too Hip for the Room” Bill Murray would be true of Steve Zissou and Murray’s role in “Rushmore.”  Scrooged, too, I suppose–although his character isn’t really too hip for the room so much as too much a self-obsessed money grubbin’ a-hole for the room (he was, after all, playing Scrooge).

Groundhog Day Bill Murray for sure, at least at the beginning.  Although by the end he’s transformed through his feelings for Rita (Andie MacDowell), saved from hell by becoming a regular, caring guy.

Maybe Broken Flowers Bill Murray.  But in that flick, he’s more zoned out than hip. He’s basically lost.

Lost in Translation Bill Murray?  Yeah, he mocks various drunks in bars and whacked-out people in the Japanese media industry.  But most of it is good-natured humor based on the ludicrousness of these interactions (the Santori Times commercial comes to mind).  But overall, Murray’s character shows a great deal of tenderness and affection–he puts on the young guy T-shirt and goes clubbing with the Japanese youths, for example.  He cares for his children and even is trying to make amends with his wife, even as he falls for a younger woman.

But still, aren’t we forgetting this iconic Bill Murray who, if nothing else, is the apotheosis of the opposite of too hip for the room?*

Or this?

Or Bill Murray as lovable doofus Todd DiLaBounta hitting on the brilliant Gilda Radner-played nerdy Lisa Loopner?  Another charater who’s not exactly too hip for the room.

In a little-remembered but in my book minor classic, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Murray plays a bumbling individual turned detective in the tradition of Peter Sellers.  If he’s too hip, it’s only because the joke is on him and we the audience are in on how out of it his character really is (though again, he’s still lovable).

Even if Anne means Murray made a second career of being the too hip in the room guy, I don’t think this flies in Lost in Translation.

In other words, Anne’s assessment is a rather one-sided view of the comedic (and dramatic) oeuvre of one Mr. William James Murray.

* The obvious “too hip for the room” guy in that film is Chevy Chase.

Update I: If blogger-pundits are comics, I want to be the Demetri Martin (Warning: Language) of this joint.

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20 thoughts on “This Bill Murray?

  1. Anne Laurie (not that I know her) thinks Ross Douthat (not that I know him) is too cool for the room? That must have been one critically uncool room.

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  2. well i think the titty bar scene in Lost in Translation, Bill is clearly hipper then the room and his understated reaction is The Funny. maybe somebody should post that.

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  3. You can’t ignore the dominating effect of Ghostbusters’ Bill Murray, who was not only too hip for this or any room, he was hipper than Zuul and Gozer the Gozerian combined.

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  4. Tangentially, does anyone know of a place to watch Matthew Gray Gubler’s film, Matthew Gray Gubler’s Life Aquatic Intern Journal on the internets? Apparently I bought the DVD too soon.

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  5. I don’t think of Murray as too cool for the room. One thing fascinates me about his delivery though: I am a huge Marx brothers fan, and whenever I watch their movies, it occurs to me that Bill Murray is the only comedian who could deliver Groucho’s lines. Anyone else would seem like a jerk doing Groucho’s character, but Murray could make it clear that they were partly jokes on himself and let the audience in on them in the way Groucho did.

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  6. I think Murray’s schtick, except in Lost in Translation, is that his characters act too hip until the crisis happens. Example Sgt. Hulka punching him in the latrine scene. The characters then display a bit of humanity, ie. the scene where he explains to the recruits that all Americans are immigrant losers and mongrels, “Look, his nose is wet!” Or his character in Meatballs exhorting his campers to remember, “It just doesn’t matter!” I think his charaters are too humane and wish to cover it up with the hip act. Another example would be his lounge singer on SNL, a guy trying so hard yet failing so miserably; that’s Murray at his best showing compassion for a Pagliacci.

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  7. “A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

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  8. A pox on you Dierkes for bringing up Murray on Groundhog day. Now I am going to have to watch that movie at least twice. I was all set to forget the day and just go blithely on my way too.

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      • Man, it’s everywhere now.

        From Time’s Top 10 List of Oscar Snubs

        An Oscar should have gone to Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin for the script, which deftly balances comedy and philosophy (Is God a groundhog? Discuss), and another to Best Actor Bill Murray. From Caddyshack to What About Bob?, Murray had refined his amiable doofus into the minimalist modern man: his posture a question mark, his face a concrete poem of anticipated disappointment. In Groundhog Day he can rise to romance and sink to despair — and be wonderfully funny — all in the same day after day after day.

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  9. Pingback: Bill Murray isn’t even that cool « Plumb Lines

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