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Review: The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man

November 9, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

From ending up in someone’s engagement photos, to serving drinks at a bar, and even doing the dishes at a random house party, there are a lot of urban legends that exist on the internet about encounters that random people have had with Bill Murray.

Colloquially known as the “Bill Murray stories,” these encounters usually end with the comedy icon reportedly saying some form of the phrase “no one will ever believe you,” before walking away.

Documentary filmmaker Tommy Avallone became obsessed with reports of these unlikely and larger than life celebrity encounters, and wanted to know the validity of them, so he decided to track down some of the people involved so that they could corroborate their tales on camera.

The result is The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man, a highly enjoyable look at the many random encounters that people have had with the beloved actor. The film explores the spontaneous nature behind many of these interactions, and how they correspond with the zen philosophies about going with the flow and embracing life as it comes at you that are present in so many of Murray’s films.

This is best explained in the film by author Gavin Edwards, who explored these same themes in his 2016 book The Tao of Bill Murray. You see, Groundhog Day is about bettering yourself by helping others and learning to accept the things you cannot change, Lost in Translation is about chance encounters and living in the moment, and even his famous mantra in Meatballs of “it just doesn’t matter” is about letting go and just accepting things as they are.

The randomness of these encounters is the very reason why Murray does them, because he likes to just do things spontaneously, and wants to remind others to do so as well. I’m a Bill Murray fan, so obviously I really liked this film. It ultimately serves an inspiring reminder for us to just live in the moment, and stay through the end credits for one final Bill Murray story that is absolutely wonderful.

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man is now playing in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Hot Docs Film Festival.

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