REVIEW: St. Vincent

19 11 2014

St. VincentAs Bill Murray’s zany candor becomes the ultimate cult of personality, it seems that plenty of people are completely entertained by just watching him be – whether in character or in real life.  “St. Vincent” thus assumes the position of a holy text in Murray’s civil religion. Writer/director Theodore Melfi essentially gives Murray an entire film where he can just exemplify his effortlessly authentic mix of odd and cool.

It really does not even matter that the mechanics of his performance are quite rusty, as most egregiously evinced by his seriously spotty Brooklyn accent.  As the harmlessly grouchy titular character, he gets the chance to spout plenty of memorable maxims (or Bill Murrayisms, as they are often called).  “St. Vincent” provides an hour and a half to spend basking in his wisdom for those not lucky enough to run into him at a hotel.

Murray does not just show up, though; he adjusts his acting style as necessary in order to mesh with Melfi’s sentimental but nonetheless winning story.  “St. Vincent” operates from a big, sympathetic heart that it wears on its sleeve.  Melfi could have done without so many mellow music montages to convey that emotion, however, since it comes so naturally from the actors.

Bill Murray St Vincent

While Vincent may appear no more than an isolated loner who ostensibly acts shamelessly for easy cash, Murray slowly reveals the complexity of his spirit and the depth of his compassion.  It does take his young neighbor Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) needing a babysitter to bring most of this saintly disposition to light, although the valuable life lessons Vincent can offer usually come at the tail end of something less than desirable such as running away from loan sharks.  Still, there is a tenderness underlying every moment that Murray realizes brilliantly and effectively.

Two great supporting performances bolster Murray’s work as well.  In a very welcome reversal, it is Naomi Watts who plays the farcical character defined by her figure (a Russian stripper pregnant by Vincent, no less) and Melissa McCarthy who takes on the level-headed but emotionally distraught matriarch.  McCarthy excels as a dramatic force on screen, where her feelings define her more than her bodily movements.  Especially after this year’s “Tammy,” she has seemed complicit in the burlesquing of her body, so it is encouraging to see her in a role that makes no mention of her weight at all.

She does not overpower Murray, nor should she.  That said, “St. Vincent” is more than just “The Bill Murray Show,” and McCarthy more than holds her own in the proceedings.  She, too, shows that humor and pathos are not mutually exclusive.  Hopefully McCarthy herself will soon receive another film in this ilk – only next time, that movie should place her front and center.  B2halfstars



2 responses

19 11 2014

For me, the movie felt like it tried too hard with the script. Had it just been simple and not try to hit us over the head with all of the annoying metaphors, we could have had a real knock-out on our hands. However, the cast just barely makes this watchable. Good review Marshall.

19 11 2014

It was definitely a little cloying, but it worked for me. Really snuck up on me, too.

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