Blue Man: Bill Murray
Hollywood’s patron saint of gruff, baleful comedy delivers life’s truths inside big chuckles
The much-awaited release this month of Bill Murray’s St. Vincent De Van Nuys, in which he plays the ornery and trainwreckish mentor to a 12-year-old boy, solidifies his place as the go-to guy for your comedic misanthrope. The fact that Jack Nicholson was also initially rumoured to be considering the role just shows what a delicate balance one must possess as an actor to get it right.
There’s something deeply compelling about a character who rejects the social code and nuances of propriety that shackle the rest of the adult world. Instead, an emotional id-driven creature, he forges his own path, bushwhacking his way to some kind of realisation, often about himself, but elucidating the journeys of others around him as well. What makes Murray great is that he can take these darker sides and urges of human nature and make them both funny and accessible to people.
One of his most praised roles was playing Herman Blume, a depressed millionaire, in Rushmore (1998). In a New York Times interview he said, “A lot of Rushmore is about the struggle to retain civility and kindness in the face of extraordinary pain. And I’ve felt a lot of that in my life.”
Even before that movie, he had already begun polishing that rare ability with his roles in Scrooged (1988) and Groundhog Day (1993). Then, with Lost in Translation (2003) and Broken Flowers (2005), he proved to be a master of the comedy-drama, bringing a sweet lightness to the gravity and sadness of existence.
The best comedy can often spring from cold reality. Murray proves you can tap-dance on the tightrope between both, leaving your audience suspended with delight and reflection.