Monday, December 21, 2015

A Very Murray Christmas

I had a few lonely Christmases myself, Bill.  I remember 1990, senior year of college, living alone in my grandmother's house. My father and I weren't speaking.  My mother was off on a nanny gig.   I had broken up with my girlfriend a few weeks earlier.  So there I sat, watching THE GODFATHER, PART II on Christmas Eve, much of it eaten up by a nearly three and one half hour running time.  The next morning I awoke in the same place I had once, as a five or six year old, run out to find a Big Wheel under my grandparents' tree.  I felt that something had gone wrong in my life. Maybe that just was life.

Billy Murray's new Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas finds the beloved comedian/grump staring out of a hotel window on Christmas Eve. He's wearing silly reindeer antlers and looks to have a severe case of the holiday blues.   A fierce blizzard rages outdoors, preventing his star studded line-up of guests (including the Pope) from attending his live holiday special. As if he needed something else to make him want to disappear until January, as the song goes.  At least Paul Shaffer is there to play accompaniment.

The show does go on.  Bill discovers Chris Rock shivering outside, coaxing him in for a "Do You Hear What I Hear?" duet, cut short when the power fails (a perfect opportunity for the comedian to make his escape). Murray, by now totally despondent, wanders the hotel and discovers other sad folks.  Like a bride (Rashida Jones) who cries into her wedding cake that none of her guests could make it.  But there is a cute waitress who has a nice voice (lent to the always creepy "Baby, It's Cold Outside") and a group of cooks who are also a band.

There are also dream sequences (though most of this special may indeed be a dream) with George Clooney deadpanning about their festively decorated "soundstage in Queens" and Miley Cyrus, doing a decent job on "Silent Night".  Someone makes a crack about Clooney's THE MONUMENTS MEN, in which Murray also starred.

Mitch Glazer, who co-wrote Murray's 1988 bittersweet holiday confection SCROOGED, collaborates with Murray and director Sofia Coppola.  The results are what you'd expect if you are familiar with these talents.  It's interesting how Murray's later career favors more idiosyncratic, high brow collaborators like Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, and his LOST IN TRANSLATION director.  A Very Murray Christmas is a dose of both the old Saturday Night Live and STRIPES broadness and the newer droll wit.  It is wholeheartedly recommended for fans of the volatile actor, though even they might wonder what they just watched.

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