Sunday, November 30, 2014

Movie Review: "St. Vincent"

If you had told me 35(!) years ago when I first saw Meatballs that one day Bill Murray could be considered somewhat of a national treasure in the movie industry, I don't know if I would have believed you, despite the awesome "It just doesn't matter" monologue. But the more I think about it, his special sarcastic-yet-charming irascibility has really held up well through the years, and it makes his performances endearing even when the characters he plays are total SOBs.

In the heartwarming, funny St. Vincent, Murray once again puts on his lovable curmudgeon hat, this time playing Vincent, a hard-drinking, gambling loner fond of a particular "lady of the night" (Naomi Watts, hamming it up with an Eastern European accent) who likes his cat more than most people. He's barely eking out a living and doesn't have a problem making everyone else as miserable as he is.

One day Vincent gets new next-door neighbors, struggling divorcée Maggie (a surprisingly subdued Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher). Maggie is battling it out with her ex-husband while trying to make a better life for Oliver, which includes enrolling him in an expensive Catholic school, where the runty Oliver is the target for bullies. One day Oliver gets locked out of his house and winds up spending the afternoon with Vincent, which leads to his becoming Oliver's babysitter of sorts. (Needless to say, Vincent always makes sure he gets paid.)

You can see from a mile away where the plot of this movie will lead, but the performances are so funny and heartwarming that it doesn't matter that you've probably seen similar movies many times over. Vincent is more than just an angry drunk; the film slowly reveals the complexity of his character and how quick people are to judge him simply as a curmudgeon without truly understanding why.

Murray does a great job inhabiting Vincent's character, shading his performance with vulnerability and humor so he's not just a ranting mouthpiece most of the time. Lieberher more than holds his own against Murray and McCarthy (who doesn't have much to do in the movie, but still brings an appealing warmth), and Watts and Bridesmaids' Chris O'Dowd (as Oliver's Catholic school teacher) ham it up as the film's comic relief. (Terrence Howard glowers through most of his scenes in an unnecessary plot thread.)

I thought this was a sweet and funny movie, and once again, Bill Murray proves he is a well-rounded actor. There's nothing earth-shattering in this movie, but amidst films loaded with special effects and Oscar-geared mugging and transformations, St. Vincent is a simple, tremendously fun film with a lot of heart. And how could you go wrong with that?


  1. McCarthy, Watts, O'Dowd & Lieberher are all wonderful but this is Murray's show from beginning to end. Then again I am a sucker for a curmudgeon and a child.
    Some might say "St. Vincent" is full of cliché, but that's what it showed in the trailer and that's what was delivered. I was more than satisfied.

  2. Paul, I couldn't agree more. This movie didn't surprise me at all, and that wasn't a bad thing.