The opening few minutes of this celebrity fueled, holiday throwback thingamabob actually kind of gave me hope. It made it seem like as though there would be some kind of story here, like there would be more than just a loose framing device for celebrities to sing with varying degrees of skill. Those first few minutes totally lied to me, and thus marks this, A Very Murray Christmas, the first time I have actively disliked something wherein Bill Murray is prominently featured. I know, I was weirded out by it, too.
There was a time in this country, in this world, when celebrity filled holiday sing-alongs were the norm. In fact, it was something of a tradition for years, thanks to Bing Crosby and his family. They were pretty innocuous, corny, family affairs, filled with wholesome renditions of our favorite Christmas staples. Hell, even David Bowie showed up one time! They were a thing, and an entire generation grew up with these specials as part of their holiday traditions. People like, oh, I don’t know, Sofia Coppola, daughter of vineyard owner Francis Ford Coppola, probably grew up watching them.
As an artist, Sofia Coppola has, for the most part, worked on projects that have primarily focused on analyzing rich people malaise. She’s always been interested in making the tough observations, asking the hard to answer questions. What is it like to not really have to worry about anything? How long will they hang out in this pool? Would Victorian era teenagers like The Strokes as much as modern era teenagers? You know, important arty stuff… For artists. Okay, I’m just kidding, but only kind of, really.
I’ve never had much of an opinion on her output, honestly, but, having said that I think the first part of what I said about her career is fair. The only reason I bring her oeuvre up at all is because I think it’s indicative of what’s been produced here. They are mostly formless, meditative and, most importantly, kind of boring. It feels like Coppola, and her ilk(Spike Jonze, Roman Coppola, etc.), are trapped by the experiences of their youth, as their films mostly are about analyzing the existence they had and perceived to have had. There’s nothing wrong with that, every perspective has value, but it is what it is and A Very Murray Christmas is no different.
Sofia is, yet again, examining a part of her childhood here, the before mentioned celebrity holiday special. To be fair, I’m making an assumption about where she’s coming from, but I don’t think I’m that far off the mark and, from what I said about her filmography. Hopefully, it makes sense to you as well.
There’s honestly not a lot to say about A Very Murray Christmas. It’s a vanity project of sorts, wherein a bunch of friends got together, put on some costumes, and sang some Christmas tunes. Yeah, there is the occasional threat of a narrative, but they are quickly cast down with, to be honest, mediocre renditions of songs sang by your celebrity pals. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces from the closing in on middle age generation and a few that have already made that journey. Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, Jenny Lewis(Hey, they needed to get somebody that can actually sing in this thing), Maya Rudolph, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus and the list goes on and on. I don’t have any problems with these people on any level, but their mere presence doesn’t set my world on fire, and I guess that’s the real rub. If that’s the kind of thing you dig then you’ll probably enjoy it on a certain level.
I’ve never really been into celebrity-centric stuff, and the older I get the less I give a shit about, especially, actors divorced from whatever they’re working on. Sure, I like to listen to interviews where they talk about their craft and what drives their choices, but I don’t want to just, you know, hang out with them. That gets exacerbated even more when they are obviously just hanging out and playing non-characters like they are in this production. Seriously, the “narrative” is so thin I don’t understand why one was included in the first place. I know what function it’s supposed to be serving, adding a little heart to the thing and trying to fill you with the holiday version of the warm and fuzzies, but I feel like the whole affair would have been better served by just being a blatant variety showcase with Bill Murray as the host. There’s not even a good “holiday message” hook, which makes it all even more pointless feeling. The only discernible thing I could gather was the idea that if you happen to be trapped in a hotel on Christmas Eve, during a blizzard, that the lonely weirdos that are stuck there with you will all come together to hang out, and much festive wonderment will take place in your immediate vicinity.
The more I think about it, the more confusing the whole the concept gets. It’s too loose and shabby to be a good… anything, really. Much less a good “holiday special” Too formless, too self aware to feel genuine and, worst of all, pretty boring.
Listen, I say all this as someone who really digs Bill Murray and has been enjoying the “A Very Murray Christmas” meme for the past few years, but as good as Bill Murray is a being himself in front of a camera, it just wasn’t very entertaining. I don’t know, maybe if I had been drunk and it was a little closer to Christmas I could have gotten into it but, as it stands now, it feels like a weird thing that was made for a select group of people. And that group of people would be those that were involved with making it.
So, I guess I wouldn’t really recommend watching it unless famous people, of the kinda/sorta hipsterish variety, get it done for you. Even for what it is it all feels pointless, and will leave most people just bored and confused. So, when I’m having a very Murray Christmas this year I guess I’ll be sticking to Scrooged, which is totally not a problem.