St. Vincent

Year 2014

Bill Murray as   Vincent MacKenna  
Melissa McCarthy   as Maggie Bronstein
Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver Bronstein
Naomi Watts as Daka Paramova
Chris O'Dowd as Brother Geraghty
Director - Theodore Melfi
Screenwriter - Theodore Melfi

St. Vincent is Bill Murray's equivalent of Al Pacino's Scent of a Woman. It's not exactly the same, although in both movies s curmudgeon helps a young man grow-up. St. Vincent focuses more on the title character than Scent of a Woman did and shows how he affects people around him. Unlike Scent of a Woman where Pacino's character also grows, in St. Vincent Murray's character really doesn't. This is one of the strong points of the movie.

You see Vincent (Murray) is at that age where he's a cynical old man. I wouldn't call him bitter and he's definitely not self-pitying. He's had a devastating bad luck incident and he's bent on destroying himself through the vices of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and prostitutes. Well, only one prostitute named Daka (Watts), but more on her later.

The bad luck incident is that his wife is suffering from Alzheimer's and has been in a nursing home for eight years. I can see how this would shatter a person's life.

By chance Vincent gets new neighbors, a seperated woman and her son, and Vincent ends up watching the son after school for a nominal amount of money per hour. The son Oliver (Lieberher) is a quiet and confused boy entering puberty. He's in the middle of his parents' problems and doesn't know how to handle things. He's also going to a new school where he's being bullied and doesn't know how to fight back. His mother Maggie (McCarthy) is upset about her estranged husband's philandering and complains to Oliver about it a lot.

So, as much of a grumpy recluse as Vincent is, for Oliver he's a breath of sanity. Except for a little bit of self-defense, Vincent doesn't school or teach the boy. Oliver and Vincent just pal around going to the horse track and a bar together. Oliver is sharp, though, and he learns some valuable lessons that help shape his personality. He becomes more assured and confident as the movie progresses.

Another important person in Vincent's life if Daka. She's a pregnant Russian prostitute. Watt's has got the whole dominant Slavic female thing down cold. She also has the profanity punctuation down, so there aren't too many lines that can be repeated here. Let's just say that without her and her character, this movie could drag.

The movie doesn't have a lot of twists and turns, but the dialog and the scenes in the movie keep it from being dull. The acting is top-notch. Bill Murray shows his range of abilities. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that he didn't get another Oscar nomination for this film. Oh, I guess it wasn't popular or trendy enough. Still, his acting is wonderful and so was Watts' and Lieberher's. O'Dowd as Brother Geraghty was entertaining. McCarthy? Well, she's an acquired taste, I guess.

But so is Murray. I remember when Saturday Night Live was new, fresh, and live. The stars were Chase, Belushi, and Akroyd. Bill Murray was sort of there after a while but not one of the main characters. He was the lowest rung. For a while, I didn't even realize that he was a regular. Curtin, Morris, Radner, and Newman were. But, Bill Murray? He was kind of stuck in to replace Chevy Chase or perhaps an injured John Belushi.

Anyway, I didn't think much of Bill Murray. He was a little too conceited, a little too condescending, a little too pock marked, a little too vicious, a little too distant. Oh, it wasn't that I disliked him; I just didn't warm to him. To hear that Bill Murray was in a movie meant little to me. It usually meant that if I had a choice, I'd opt away from the Bill Murray movie in favor of something else.

It's not as if I didn't want to not like him. But how can you like someone whose claims to fame include a councilor ub the occasionally funny Meatballs, the really unlikable Venkman in Ghostbusters, the insufferable Bob in What About Bob?, the nearly completely unfunny and excruciatingly empty movies Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums? Even some of Murray's scenes in Groundhog Day make me flinch in embarrassment. Face it, Bill Murray's movies were crap shoots.

Then came Lost in Translation and everything changed. Bill Murray gained a lot of merited notoriety for his role of Bob Harris. Murray, for once, played an adult that wasn't nasty and completely self-centered. It made me think of him differently. After that came The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, another Wes Anderson film, the guy who brought you Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But this time, Bill Murray's character was entertaining. He was still a scoundrel, but he made the slow as dripping glass movie watchable.

But what really made me rethink my opinion of Bill Murray were the outtakes from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. His adlibbing of a dance that had to go through many takes made me appreciate Bill Murray as a person. His patience rivals that of Job.

I'm going on like this because this movie, St. Vincent, only works because of the acting. Not just Bill Murray, but also Naomi Watts. I'd heard of Naomi Watts before but I couldn't tell you the name of a single movie that she'd been in. For some reason, I when I hear Naomi Watts, I think Naomi Watts and Neve Campbell. Why? I dunno. Until this movie, that was how I thought of Naomi Watts. Now, I think "Daka".

There are some things that nearly sink this movie, though.

For starters, important aspects to the movie were deleted. Check out the deleted scenes for a fully explained ending. If not, you'll be asking yourself, "And how did financial security spontaneously occur?" Without the deleted scenes, the movie is choppy.

Even with the deleted scenes, the movie still fails to flow. Why on earth would people like or want to help Vincent? He's rude and insulting yet people seem to like him. Even if these people are just barflies, this isn't realistic.

It also would have been nice to know a little bit more about Vincent's marriage. His caring for his ailing wife if the crux of the movie yet their backstory is missing.

Part of the pacing issue has to do with the loss of humor as the movie progresses. It's quite funny in the beginning but the progressive move to the dramatic is at the expense of a sense of humor. It's a dramedy or a comama (or even a comma?).

The big scene will bring a tear to your eye. It pulls out all of the stops to the point where it's almost ridiculous because it's so contrived. But yet, it isn't quite ridiculous and it's effective and you'll probably be angry with yourself afterward for falling for it.

So, the writing isn't bad for someone writing his first time feature length script, but it's not professional yet. Maybe Melfi will develop into someone worth watching.

No nudity but there is profanity. There's also blasphemy by McCarthy (surprised?). Chick flick potential is above average. If you like Bill Murray, check it out.

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