(1984)2.5Michael CostelloA film featuring Bill Murray in a rare dramatic role, this rambling, unfocused adaptation of the Somerset Maugham novel was a labor of love for the comedian, who wrote the film with a friend, director John Byrum. It traces the wandering path of a scion of the upper crust who, after fighting in WWI, rejects the path laid out for him and travels the world in search of spiritual enlightenment. Apparently, the filmmakers were seeking a story which would provide an analogy for the alienated Vietnam generation of the '60s and '70s, and the "Lost Generation" of WWI represented by protagonist Larry Darrell seemed apt. Certainly the parallels with a terrible war and Darrell's post-war revulsion with his society's materialism are obvious. Yet they might have made a better choice than a novel which had already been turned into a mediocre soap opera of faux spirituality with Tyrone Power. Murray and Byrum have added humor to the original story, as well as heightening the violence of the combat sequences, but this odd tonal blend of tragedy, comedy, bathos, and ersatz truth-seeking defeats almost any response to the material. As in the original film, it's impossible to understand exactly what it is the lead character has learned in his travels through India, the Himalayas, and elsewhere. At least Power seemed completely blissed-out after his experiences, while the only quality that Murray evinces here is a trace of smugness, as he watches the lives of his wealthy friends fall apart. Despite the film's confusion, Murray has moments of genuine power throughout, and is at his best in the WWI segment.