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Sadie Katz’s “The Bill Murray Experience” Reviewed

If movies are life with all the boring parts taken out, Sadie Katz’s career has been life with all the fears metamorphosed into waking nightmares. The Californian Scream Queen Sadie eats up the screen with a presence that, even when she is eating human flesh, exudes movie star brilliance. She is better than us mortals. But who is this indie movie fixture? Well, today she is 43 years old and married to a reality show runner, while she writes, stars, and produces her 2022 horror movie for her own See You On Tuesday Films (a cheeky near acronym) dropping in November.

In 2022, Sadie plays a mother fighting demon possession to save her son in the upcoming “The Beast Inside”, earlier in her career she was a sex symbol horror girl, a Yutte Stensgaard for today, as though all those Hammer movies from the 60s were displaced into a Beach Boys song.

Between the bombshell and the mother, Katz released the award winning “The Bill Murray Experience” – it isn’t a comedy, it isn’t a horror movie per se, but it is portrait of a woman sufferings through PTSD. Filmed when Sadie was in her late 30s, it is a person stripped bare self-portrait that seems ready to fall apart and with only Sadie’s perseverance and personal appeal saving her. And even that doesn’t save her all the way as around the two thirds mark she checks into UCLA Hospital for ten days due to exhaustion.

The story of how Sadie got there is at the heart of “The Bill Murray Experience”, with an ever present cameraman on hand and the greatest editor who ever lived, we first see her devastated after a rough break up (“I’m always getting dumped or fired” she notes) and with three girlfriends in tow goes in search for the actor-comedian, known for showing up unannounced to share his life with innocent citizens, so she can have her own “Bill Murray Experience”.

Bill Murray isn’t as fascinating as Sadie seems to believe, and the BME is a little bland. I once had a conversation with Paul Schaeffer while waiting for Petula Clark to sing, fine but who cares? It is one thing to have Murray crash your wedding party, something else entirely to have him buy an ice cream cone from your truck. Sadie doesn’t see it this way although, in fact, the BME experience is far more legitimate for her even if she is managing it and not having it occur spontaneously.

The beginning is wild, it makes you dream of an extended version where you can see them partying with the world as four women raising havoc. In their futile search for Bill between online tracking and road trips, excessive drinking and weed inhalation (at one point she looks bleary eyed in a hotel room having missed Bill again at the tail end of 3 days of nonstop stonedness), it doesn’t happen and her friends leave her. Slowly, the fun dissipates as a form of desperation takes hold. Slowly, she seems less and less rational and more and more in serious distress.

It isn’t fun watching Sadie’s disintegration, indeed it is a horror movie, she is such a charming woman that you root for her all the way, you can see why Bill’s brother Joel Murray takes a shine and invites her to the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Charity Golf Tournament. I feel bad for all five brothers, the last thing a person needs is to spend their lives in Bill’s shadow, and Joel has a droopy kind of sadness as Katz presses Joel to tell her how to get her own BME.

That’s the only time we lose sympathy for the scream queen. What we are seeing is Sadie performing as a version of herself. She is so fragile throughout you want to protect her and she is a long way from “Wrong Turn 6” though whenever you are dealing with flesh eating cannibals, not unlike vampires, you are dealing with a hunger and BME is Sadie suffering from a different form of hunger -though she steps gingerly around attraction, only going so far as to say she wants to hug Bill. It is a tour de force, an ego strip from a woman who is a star in her own right. Sadie has so much wattage here, she can do intrusive, strange (Trip to Morocco? No?) things, she can dress as a unicorn, or carry 200 balloons, she can intrude on the fringes of Murray’s life, she can drive herself crazy and check her midlife crazy at the door, yet you can’t stop watching her, you can’t stop caring.

This isn’t a vlog, you can feel her hand as a director all the way through, and while I don’t believe it is Cinéma vérité especially, it isn’t Albert and David Maysles, it is more as though she is playing her IRL without being her IRL. As noted above, movies are life with the boring bits taken out, everything Sadie suffers through has a sense of, well, maybe, but Sadie is a star and people want to be around her and she keeps that side hidden. Once her girlfriends have had enough they are gone. We never see the girlfriends again, we never see the boyfriend; her private life, in a movie that is wide open, is closed off.

In effect, this is the artistry behind BME -not unlike Murray himself, Katz hides in plain sight. We don’t expect even documentaries to be real life and BME seems to be about fandom and also obsession, about rejection, in a different iteration it could be about auditioning for movies; it has a theme and the theme is open ended and open to interpretation. You end up hurt for her (Joel notes that Bill is aware of what she is doing and is playing hide and seek with her) and without wanting to give away the ending, perhaps a quote from William Blake might help:

“Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye”

I had a zoom business meeting with Katz earlier this week, and she didn’t resemble her BME Katz at all, and sure business is business, however I’ve met actors before and it is not difficult to see the real David Bowie in the celluloid Thomas Jerome Newton. You expect, especially in autobiography, to find one in the other.

I am hoping to get a viewing of an early cut of “The Beast Inside” because “BME” made me a fan and while I don’t expect her to take me on the sad, sweet, rewarding road trip that is “The Bill Murray Experience”, it’s enough to spend more time watching her on screen. Katz humanizes herself, acts herself, so completely in the movie we convince ourselves it is really her. And it is. For Sadie Katz, not us.

You can stream “The Bill Murray Experience” on Peacock (here)

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