St. Vincent

Movie Review #901

st_vincent

Released in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on October 10, 2014. Limited release on October 17, 2014. Nationwide release on October 24, 2014. Comedy. This film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language. Runs 102 minutes. American production. Director: Theodore Melfi. Screenplay: Theodore Melfi. Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, and Terrence Howard.

BILL MURRAY GIVES ONE OF THE MOST COMMENDABLE PERFORMANCES ALL YEAR.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Vincent (Bill Murray) is as cantankerous as he is outgoing. He’s a war veteran in his late sixties, but he lives like he’s still in his twenties. His daily schedule seems to consist of drinking until he gets kicked out of the bar, betting on horses even though he’s short on money, and receiving a visit from a prostitute named Daka (Naomi Watts). Daka is pregnant, and who knows if it’s Vincent’s baby. Also, who knows whether Vincent’s wife knows he’s having an affair while she’s dying in the hospital. Vincent’s daily visits to the nursing home appear, at first, to be the only justifiable thing he does on a daily basis.

Next-door to Vincent, a recently-divorced woman named Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in. Maggie isn’t exactly fond of Vincent, but she doesn’t know anything about him, either. When she realizes it might not be okay to leave Oliver at home by himself, she trusts Vincent to pick up her son from school and watch him until she gets home from work. Maybe not the smartest move, but considering they have no friends in the area–and in fact, they hardly know the area–it’s her only move.

Oliver begins to realize, through his accord with Vincent, that this old man’s actually not as mean and awful as he’d thought. The story is all too familiar: grumpy old man turns out to be a lot sweeter than we thought. But writer-director Theodore Melfi takes pride in the familiarity of his story. We know where the story’s headed, and we know the end result, but he’s clearly eager to tell the story, far more than those who have tackled the “grumpy old man” premise for its simplicity.

Even more than the freshly modeled screenplay, it’s the cast that makes “St. Vincent” a wonderful movie. And if there’s any reason to see this film, it’s for Bill Murray’s performance. Murray is one of the most curious method actors alive. He’s infamous for showing up late and not following the script, and in “St. Vincent”, it really adds to the carefree nature of his character. His improvisation is flawless.

It’s undeniably difficult to work with an actor who makes up most his lines off the cuff, but the rest of the cast nails it. Naomi Watts, as “the lady of the night,” takes on a believable accent and a hilarious temper. Jaeden Lieberher, debuting as Oliver, gives a amusing performance. I was reminded of Chloë Grace Moretz in “(500) Days of Summer”. Melissa McCarthy grounds her role as Maggie in a surprisingly serious performance. But as movingly as she’s able to deliver, McCarthy doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role. Except for one particular scene at the office at her son’s school. That’s when some of the signature McCarthy jokes appear.

“St. Vincent” is a nice little movie, and its cast certainly makes it memorable and worthwhile. Bill Murray especially. As great as the rest of the cast is, the movie would be lost without his performance. We open up with a character as far from admirable as you could get, and ironically, he’s what makes the movie so much fun.

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