Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Movie Review: St. Vincent

St. Vincent
Directed by: Theodore Melfi.
Written by: Theodore Melfi.
Starring: Bill Murray (Vincent), Melissa McCarthy (Maggie), Naomi Watts (Daka), Chris O'Dowd (Brother Geraghty), Terrence Howard (Zucko), Jaeden Lieberher (Oliver), Kimberly Quinn (Nurse Ana).

Bill Murray is one of those actors that I would gladly watch in anything. I’m trying to think of an actor I became a fan of earlier in my life than Murray, and I am struggling to think of one. He has made his fair share of bad to downright awful films, but he is almost always doing something interesting in them. He is one of the few actors I can of think you legitimately doesn’t seem to care what others think of him – he just goes out there, and does what whatever he feels like. His latest performance, in St. Vincent, in one of his better in recent years – and even if the movie cannot quite match him; he’s so good that you hardly care. The film is a typical old, drunk asshole meets cute kid and the two teach each other valuable life lessons film – but it works because Murray, not to mention the supporting cast, make it work. It’s actually odd that no one thought of putting Murray in this type of role before.

Murray’s Vincent is an unemployed, chain-smoking, drunken gambler who lives in his rundown house in Brooklyn, driving his 30 year old wood panel station wagon and acting like a complete and total asshole to anyone and everyone who is lucky enough to come into contact with him. He’s broke, his reverse mortgage is maxed out, and he owes some money to some not very nice people – and has other expenses as well. This is when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) – a newly single mother moves in next door with Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), a 10 year old on the small side, and through a series of weird occurrences, Vincent ends up being his afterschool babysitter. Of course, Vincent is the last person you would expect to be a babysitter – which is where the humor comes from.

There are a couple of different ways a film like St. Vincent can go – it can either be smartly sentimental and funny, or it can be cloying, annoying and overly sentimental. This is why casting an actor like Murray was smart for writer-director Theodore Melfi – Murray is incapable of playing a scene and having it come across as little more than an emotional ploy to try and manipulate the audience. While the movie itself is definitely trying to do that – the closing scenes are rather brazen in their manipulation – Murray sells it all with natural charm and wit.  

The rest of the cast is fine as well. It was nice to see Melissa McCarthy go a little quieter, and subtler for the first time in a while – she is a talented actress, who Hollywood seems to only want to go over the top every time – and while she does that well, she is capable of more than that. This movie doesn’t give her too much to do – but she does it well. Naomi Watts hides behind an over-the-tip Russian accent as a pregnant prostitute friend of Vincent – she’s amusing, but never quite believable. Without a doubt, the best supporting performance is by young Jaeden Lieberher as Olivier – who at first feels like a typical, cutesy movie kid, and while he does that, he slowly becomes somewhat more believable throughout. We have certainly seen Murray steamroll many a co-star during the course of his career, but Lieberher doesn’t allow that to happen.

Yes, the movie follows every clich̩ you can possibly think of in a movie like this. But Murray and company make it all worthwhile. The end of the film desperately wants to milk tears from the audience Рand will likely succeed in many cases Рbut rare in a film like this, those tears feel earned.

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