Murray of the monthPosted: August 29, 2011
Hooray! A rare treat for me – a Bill Murray film that I hadn’t seen before, Passion Play (2010). Excitement was in the air, despite the fact that I had postponed watching it for several months. Maybe I was wary because of the bad reviews, maybe I was dreading the jazzy trumpet action. Somehow it had slipped my mind. Maybe I had people to see and places to be late from. You know how it is. Eventually, I mustered the courage to watch the damn thing, despite what I had read. So, excitement yes, but of the nervous kind where it could really go either way. Possibly not the way I liked.
I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but I might as well try anyway. There’s a jazz trumpet playing junkie, a gangster with some daddy issues and an ironic name, a pretty girl with wings who might or might not be an angel but certainly has no other talents and a few other sidekicks of questionable importance to the film. The trumpet guy, the gangster and even one of the sidekicks want the girl. There’s a cheat ending, although not really because if you’ve ever seen any films before, you will most likely know what’s up from the beginning.
Bill Murray is in a supporting role in this film. Unlike in many other films, that’s where he stays as well. I wish I could say Mickey Rourke’s leading man is so overpowering that there simply isn’t enough room for Murray to hijack the film with his charisma and downplayed presence. But the real credit here goes to sloppy scriptwriting, which leads to a rare combination of infuriatingly illogical plot twists and totally predictable storyline. The paper-thin characters are just the biproducts of this mess. The film is so cliched and utterly boring that even the pretty cinematography can’t save it. The pace is so unbelievably slow at times that I had to take a nap or go and do the dishes just to keep my sanity and/or concentration. Really. In the middle of a Bill Murray film. And if you’re thinking that sometimes slow can be good, like in, say, Lost in Translation, I wholeheartedly agree. But it’s not that kind of slow. It’s the kind of slow when people in front of you walk slow and you get the urge to slap them in the back of their head and yell “C’mon!” like you’ve seen New Yorkers do on television. The yelling, I mean, not so much the slapping, although maybe that happens as well? But I digress.
Although it might be unfair to compare Passion Play to Lost in Translation, there is one crucial aspect where the former fails miserably in comparison to the latter and there’s just no justification for it. As stated before, the cinematography is beautiful, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t make up for lack of talent, charisma or presence. While Megan Fox certainly looks immaculate with her wings spread and even with wings folded, there just isn’t enough about or in her to make the character stand out like a female lead should and like Scarlett Johansson did in Lost in Translation. More importantly, casting Fox as the female lead is emblematic of the missed opportunities Passion Play is full of. Rourke and Murray are both iconic actors in their own right and their talents are entirely wasted on this film. While Murray manages to make his parts of the film watchable, it is a far cry from the usual enjoyment of watching him even in a supporting role. Having said that, there are a couple of entertaining scenes and Murray moments and I made it through the whole film although it took some doing. Not entirely waste of time then, although pretty close.