I will see just about any movie that stars Bill Murray not only because he’s one of my all-time favorite actors, but also because Murray has a tendency to pick great projects to star in. The new indie movie St. Vincent has received a lot of praise in the lead-up to its release based on Murray’s performance, and it’s all warranted. Though Murray has spent the last decade mostly starring in little-seen indie films and Wes Anderson movies, St. Vincent will remind general audiences just how great of an actor he is.
Vin (Bill Murray) is a Brooklyn-born, politically incorrect man on the cusp of seventy with a thick New York accent. He smokes and drinks too much, gambles with money he doesn’t have, eats all bad food, and has a weekly appointment with a Daka (Naomi Watts with a comically thick accent), a stripper/prostitute who is pregnant with a baby that may or may not be Vin’s. On the surface he seems to be little more than a nasty drunk who is looking to put himself into a grave as soon as possible. He wakes up from a drunken stupor to find out that single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) have moved next door. Though their initial meeting is less than cordial, Vin inadvertently ends up the precocious boy’s after-school babysitter. Oliver and Vin bond as the old man teaches Oliver his wicked ways, but he also reveals his softer side to the kid, like when he makes his weekly visits to a nursing home.
One of the great revelations of the film is McCarthy, who (for once) isn’t playing “Melissa McCarthy” in this film. McCarthy has been typecast in her big screen roles since her breakthrough performance in 2011’s Bridesmaids, and I am sure she had to pass up yet another Identity Thief/The Heat/Tammy type comedy to this movie. Her character in this film is a supporting one, but there is a lot of depth to Maggie. As Vin points out, she’s woefully unprepared to be a mother since she never questions where Vin takes her son or how they spend their time together. She is also miserable from how her ex-husband treated her and defines her life by letting everyone know how miserable she is (including Oliver’s teacher, a priest played by the hilarious Chris O’Dowd).
Of course, the real star here is Murray, who can make an audience laugh by the way he walks around in a bank. While his character is purely a stock one (the “cranky old man with a heart of gold” type), what makes St. Vincent unique is that it isn’t one of those movies where Vin is a bad person who is miraculously changed by the presence of Oliver in his life. Vin always was a good person, just one who doesn’t feel the need to broadcast his good deeds – in other words, he does kind things because he wants to, not because he wants other people to know (shocking concept, right?). An interesting contrast between Oliver’s two “parental” figures in the film that isn’t really explored is how Vin plays his cards close to the vest (more than once he expresses that other characters don’t really know him) while Maggie broadcasts her misery to the world. Nobody’s perfect, and St. Vincent has no intention to present its characters in any other way.
Writer/director Theodore Melfi has never directed a feature before (he’s directed short films and producers several indie films, but none of this size), and parts of his inexperience show in how mainstream the film is – in a lot of ways it’s Murray’s most mainstream role since his Lost in Translation breakthrough. However, that’s not completely a knock against the film. Is St. Vincent melodramatic? Absolutely. Is it predictable? No question. It might not be a completely original story and the film might not be particularly unique that doesn’t mean it’s not a really enjoyable movie.
Review Rating: 4 out of 5 : See it …… It’s Very Good
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts,Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard