Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: St. Vincent

Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.
This film's titular character is exactly the type you'd expect to see Bill Murray inhabit - a little bitter, pretty sarcastic, not too happy to suffer fools gladly and exhibiting room for improvement. The great actor has portrayed such a type on more than a few occasions, most notably in "Lost in Translation," "Groundhog Day" and "Rushmore."

So, while he doesn't exactly stretch himself and give a performance unlike any we've seen him give before in "St. Vincent," he brings the goods in that Bill Murray sense, sort of like how Jack Nicholson can sometimes be depended on to be, well, Jack.

"St. Vincent" treads some very well-tread ground - miser befriends kid, teaches some life lessons and becomes a better man in the process. In this case, Murray plays Vietnam Vet and all-around curmudgeon Vincent, who gambles, drinks, swears and can be a bit of a lout with those in his immediate vicinity. However, he also cares for his ailing wife who no longer remembers him and lives in assisted living, fusses over his adorable fuzzball of a cat and helps out a Russian prostitute (Naomi Watts) who is in the family way.

A precocious kid named Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and his single mother, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy, in a more serious role), who has just left her cheating husband, move next door to Vincent. Maggie works late nights at a hospital and Vincent, somewhat unwillingly, becomes Oliver's babysitter. Since this is a feel-good Hollywood movie, the grumpy old man will teach the kid to defend himself against bullies, learn life lessons through trips to bars and racing tracks and other semi-inappropriate behavior.

And yet, the film works because Murray is always terrific, even when he is playing a version of a character he's inhabited numerous times before, and the picture has a good heart. Towards its end, it gets sentimental, but by that point the film has earned the right to do so - and manages to get warm and fuzzy without being schmaltzy.

Murray has been in relatively few films in recent years and I yearn to see him more onscreen in the future. So, while "St. Vincent" is seemingly a walk in the park for the actor and I've love to see him once again take on something like "Lost in Translation," this will certainly do for the time being. This is a good natured and charming movie.

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