Dec 7, 2012

Is Bill Murray God? In all seriousness

From my Guardian column:— 
"... There is another explanation. It’s a lot simpler: Bill Murray is, in fact, God.  I know, I know. These are cynical times. Faith is hard to come by in the era of partisan gridlock, turmoil in the Middle-East and that last episode of Homeland.  But remember 1992’s Groundhog Day, in which Murray played Phil Conners, a man cursed to relive the same day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, over and over again, until he is on first name terms with every waitress, can predict every dropped plate, and anticipate every line of dialogue while it’s still in everyone’s throat. The role was a perfect fit for Murray: the rumpled, mock-suave, hipster clown, whose flat disc of a face has always born the unshockable expression of a man who knows exactly what everyone is about to say seconds before they say it. That’s what deadpan is, essentially, a physiognomical register of omniscience. It is the face of God. Murray’s role in Groundhog Day was essentially that of a bored deity, trying to figure out how to wile away eternity. 

He wouldn’t be the first comedian to play God. So did George Burns in Oh God! (1977) and Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty (2003). Not for nothing did the philosopher Voltaire once compare God to a “comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” Comedians always have a loosely transcendent relationship with the dramas they are in, sharing space with the other characters, breathing the same air, but at the same time establishing a visceral lightning-connection with the audience that leaps over the heads of the other characters to punch a hole through the fourth wall. That’s why Murray, like so many comedians, was born to appear in flimsy films like Meatballs (1979) Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes (1981). The flimsier the film, the easier the punch. It’s also why he faced an uphill struggle in his initial attempt at dramatic roles in films The Razor's Edge (1984) and Mad Dog And Glory (1993). In each, the deck titled queasily beneath the audience’s feet as they tense for a punch-line that never came. We don’t like seeing our Gods made mortal."

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