Director Sofia Coppola certainly has her share of detractors, perhaps because of her genes or her gender or both, but she’s one of the best filmmakers working today, and she applies her dreamy, dewy outlook to this traditional Christmas special turned sideways. A Netflix original, A Very Murray Christmas (2015) runs only an hour, and it’s occasionally slow, but it has a great deal of warmth. Its focus is more on heartfelt performances than on polished ones, and it has an appealingly relaxed, quiet pace that makes it a perfect antidote for a frenetic holiday season.
Bill Murray, star of Coppola’s masterpiece Lost in Translation, plays himself, preparing to put on a live Christmas special on Christmas Eve at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, but shut down by a snowstorm. So Murray, pianist Paul Shaffer, and several guests gather in the bar for a laid-back, loose, impromptu special of their own, with Murray crooning, “Nick the Lounge Singer”-style, on several classics. Chris Rock, David Johansen, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, and Jenny Lewis sing, George Clooney and Miley Cyrus appear in a dream sequence, and Amy Poehler, Julie White, Dimitri Dimitrov, and Michael Cera turn in funny little appearances. The French band Phoenix (whose lead singer is Coppola’s husband) appear as hotel chefs and also perform.