Friday, October 17, 2014

St. Vincent Movie Review

Bill Murray stars in St. Vincent

Saints Are Human

It's not often that you come across a film that's both irreverent and touching at the same time; yet that's exactly what I discovered at a recent screening of Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent. Melfi makes quite a splash in his feature debut, aided by an Oscar-worthy turn by Bill Murray as the titular character. The word "odd" leaps to mind, more often than not; but Vincent's quirks provide non-stop laughs, even though most of his actions are downright deplorable. The fact that he becomes a young boy's mentor is both startling yet brilliant: No one in their right mind would want to grow up to be like him, but who's to say he doesn't have some wisdom to impart? Thankfully all that wisdom adds up to 102 minutes (perfect timing) of great entertainment.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single mother, moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her 12-year old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave Oliver in the care of their new neighbor, Vincent (Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with a pregnant stripper named Daka (Naomi Watts), Vincent brings Oliver along on all the stops that make up his daily routine - the race track, a strip club, and the local dive bar. Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a man, while Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood man with a good heart.

What’s Best: This isn't meant as an insult; but Murray looks and plays older than his actual age (64.) As far as curmudgeons go, he could be the best ever. To watch him act, is nothing short of pure bliss: He turns every scene he's part of, into something special... even one as potentially dull as closing a bank account. I can't emphasize just how great he is; and this performance ranks as one of his best.

Although this is clearly Murray's film, there's still room for others to shine. McCarthy dials it down a notch or two, and comes away charming and cuddly for a change. Chris O'Dowd is a stitch as Oliver's teacher, a progressive Catholic priest who takes everything in stride... even when Oliver announces, 'I think I'm Jewish,' when asked to lead the class in prayer. Speaking of, Lieberher's Oliver is absolutely delightful as the boy in the middle, who takes a liking (don't ask why) to Vincent.

What’s Not: Watts is a wonderful actress (one of the best) but playing a pregnant "lady of the night" with a piss-poor Russian accent is a stretch, even for her. That said, watching her struggle to pick up tips/pole dance is oddly delightful (and hilarious.)

Best Line: Oliver watches Abbott and Costello for the first time, and asks Vincent, 'Are they old?' Vincent replies, 'They're dead. That's the oldest you can be.' Perhaps less cynical (but no less aggressive) is Vincent's response to a telephone solicitor, 'Come on coward: Try to sell me something!'

Overall: Vincent would make a terrible dad, but an ideal "rent-a-uncle." Tooling around town in a beat-up Chrysler Lebaron, Vincent lives like he has nothing to lose; but there's more to him than meets the eye. He claims, 'I don't need to hear the whole story,' but truth be told... Vincent's story is one worth telling (over and over again.) His relationship with Oliver is extremely touching, even when he's shown lounging on a deck chair, while his young padawan circles around him... mowing his lawn dirt. There's no shortage of calamity; but St. Vincent proves to be one of the most endearing films of the year. All hail St. Bill!