REVIEW: “St. Vincent”

VINCENT POSTER

Bill Murray is an interesting actor who has had an interesting career. It has been a long career marked by numerous successes in lead, supporting, or even cameo roles. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Bill Murray is that most of the time he plays a variation of the same type of character. Sometimes he amps it up as high as it will go, other times he dials it down to subtle levels. Either way we often get some of the same characteristics in a Bill Murray character and it has served him well since his peculiar feature film debut all the way back in 1975.

His latest effort teams him up with writer and director Theodore Melfi. The movie is “St. Vincent”, a comedy/drama that plays with that familiar Murray onscreen personality yet offers the actor an opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles. Murray doesn’t disappoint. As you can probably guess, he plays a man named Vincent. He’s a Vietnam War veteran living in Brooklyn who seeks refuge from his misery in all the wrong places – alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling just to name a few. Vincent is right in Murray’s comfort zone. He is sarcastic and snarky and the humor we get from him is dry and subtly self-deprecating.

VINCENT1

Melfi’s film starts by clearly defining Vincent’s miserable circumstances. It also exposes us to Vincent’s numerous unpleasantries. It doesn’t take long for us to originate our opinions of this man. He’s rude, cranky, frequently drunk, dishonest, and shameless. His finances are a mess, he is in deep with racehorse bookies, and his self-destructive habits are wearing on his health. These problems are accentuated but also confronted when a recently divorced mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door. But at the same time we eventually see that there is more to Vincent than the gruff, jagged exterior.

“St. Vincent” is all about the characters and each has their own distinct personal problems to navigate. The central relationship is between Vincent and Oliver. From the very first moment they meet the direction of the film becomes obvious. As I watched I kept thinking of a darker, edgier, subtler “Uncle Buck” minus the family dynamic. But while things are pretty predictable that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t without value. The relationships evolve at a deliberate pace which actually works in the story’s favor. But perhaps the biggest surprise came in the movie’s final act. The melodrama is ratcheted up and I knew my emotions were being set up. Yet despite that I found myself responding to it even though it felt a bit manipulative.

VINCENT2

Bill Murray is such a natural performer at this stage in his career and he delivers a strong performance filled with more layers than you might initially think. Young Liberher is fine although it is a pretty standard performance for that type of child’s role. One of the big surprises was McCarthy. It’s not that she was great or groundbreaking. Instead I was just pleased to see a performance from her that I didn’t mind sitting through. We also get Naomi Watts as a Russian dancer and “woman of the night”. She is solid as always although I think her character is easily the most flimsy and uneven.

Again, if you know this is a Bill Murray comedy you have an idea of what you’re going to get. But “St. Vincent” allows for enough nuances to let Murray extend himself beyond what we often see him do. This isn’t a film that breaks any new ground but it does tell a good story although a fairly predictable one. You won’t find a single surprise and there are moments where the movie could have dove into some unfamiliar waters. But at the same time it does offer a handful of intriguing characters whose lives draw us in for better or for worse. That’s something many movies never accomplish.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “REVIEW: “St. Vincent”

    • No man, I know exactly what you mean. In the second half I knew I was being set up. Then the Indian came in I knew I was being emotionally manipulated. But I responded to it. It actually worked for me. But it’s not anything I see myself watching over and over. It’s so predictable and you have it all figured out by the midway point.

  1. I would have rated it the same, too. It’s fine. Nothing great, better than average. I really appreciated Naomi Watts in this. Who knew she could do a Russian accent? Glad to see her doing something completely different.

    • I thought Naomi was good. Her performance was fine but I think her character was a little flimsy. I will tell you who I really liked – Chris O’Dowd. He was a hoot.

  2. I agree with your review. Well said. I was surprised by how little Melissa McCarthy had to do, though. She didn’t really register here, for me. Naomi Watts is not really considered a comedic actress, but her character made a stronger lasting impression. I didn’t expect that.

    • The more I think on McCarthy’s character the more I agree with you. She really was just a plot point. I guess I was just so surprised that I wasn’t repelled by her (per usual).

  3. Solid review, Keith! We pretty much see eye to eye here. I thought it was pretty good if a bit conventional with it’s emotional impact in the last act but the cast more than made up for it’s small faults and I was left pretty satisfied especially with Murray. Nice work bro!

  4. I think it was St. Vincent’s manipulation of emotion that threw me off a bit Keith. I like how you pointed that out here. But for me as well, some big surprises like McCarthy and the young child actor and Naomi Watts, somewhat buoyed the overall experience. If I could go back and change my thoughts on it I think I would bump the final rating up a notch. I felt like I was perhaps too hard on it.

    • It’s not without its faults but I still enjoyed it. It definitely had its share of emotional manipulation which is why I am surprised that the ending work for me. As you say the performances are solid which is one reason the material is elevated. Overall I’m glad I saw it although it’s not a movie I’ll come back to often.

  5. Nice review and I would agree with your rating. Bill Murray was in fine form, but there’s very little originality in St. Vincent. Still a fun movie though.

  6. Love Bill Murray but I’m not a fan of Melissa McCarthy, that’s why I haven’t seen this yet. I might give it a rent at some point though. Great review Keith!

    • In with you 100%! McCarthy wasn’t terrible here. I think it’s because she’s dialed it back a bit and the role is a lot more reserved. Much better than her usual stuff.

      • And the big problem is she doesn’t have to be that way. There are small glimpses of charm and humor that we occasionally see. But it is smothered by all of the of noxious stuff. A shame.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s