A Trip To The Movies – Review: “St.Vincent” 1.4.14

I can’t say I had the highest of hopes for this one, despite knowing very little about it other than having seen what appeared to be a mediocre trailer for it prior to its release. However, once the 2015 Golden Globe nominations were announced, and I saw that it got a nomination for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) and more importantly a Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) nomination for Bill Murray. Anybody who’s anyone I would think would see a film just based on the mere fact that it’s a “Bill Murray film” that garnered him a nomination. As I think it goes without being said that he may not be the most gifted actor in the business, he’s certainly one of the more universally loved. Which is certainly the case with me. So with that in mind I decided to make it a point to catch the film while it was still in theaters.

“St.Vincent” starts by introducing us to Vincent (or Vin as he’s called) played by the ever so wonderful Bill Murray. Vin is a textbook degenerate – one who resembles something like a cross between Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa” (2003) and Danny McBride in the TV series “Eastbound and Down”. He drinks too much, is disrespectful to just about everyone he meets including his new neighbor (played by Melissa McCarthy – my first introduction to her in a movie), and cavaliers around a stripper (played by Naomi Watts playing a Russian woman with a thick accent – which surprisingly works) so that he can use her as his sex slave. That is until one day by a matter of chance he winds up being asked to babysit the McCarthy character’s son Oliver (played by the excellent Jaeden Lieberher in his debut performance). Oliver is having quite a bit of trouble at his Catholic private school because he’s just one of those teeny, puny kids that are easy targets to get picked on. Vin begins to watch young Oliver after school, as his mother has one of those demanding jobs that requires her to stay late. Vin does this at first simply because he is a selfish old man who is quickly going broke. But as the two of them start to develop a relationship, with Vin’s crazy lifestyle and antics acting as an almost catalyst for Oliver to gain the confidence he needs, while also providing the change that Vin’s character can benefit from because it seems like all he may need is some company around. As this relationship blossoms so does the story, and we start to gain some insight into the man Vin really is on the inside and not just the out.

The film winds up being slightly predictable, formulaic, and follows Hollywood movie tropes a little too closely. But if you’re able to put that aside, within it contains a beautiful and deeply moving film about life and one man’s experiences that have made him into the man he is. Even if he he is a little bit rough around the edges he’s utterly human. This multilayered and complex role almost seems tailor-made for an actor like Murray. Who puts in a dynamite performance here which ranks up there with the best of his “rebirth” roles (the “rebirth” of Bill Murray is considered post-1998’s “Rushmore”). I would even go so far as to say he was better in this than he was in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation” (2003) and on par with his role in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004). He is the meat and bones of the film and is well deserving of the Best Actor Golden Globe nomination he received. Also, his relationship with the Jaeden Lieberher character is heartwarming, funny, and touching, and a lot of credit needs to go to him as well as it must be hard to play so well as he does off an actor of Murray’s caliber. Melissa McCarthy, who as mentioned I was previously unfamiliar with, also did a pretty good job as the troubled mother hit with unforeseen circumstances. The movie takes a grand shift at about the middle point that took me by surprise and really shows why Murray is just as good of an actor delving into dramatic territory as he is comedy. I felt while the film was pretty standard fare up to this point, it really started moving and was both engaging and touching from then forward. Culminating in a climax that had me on the verge of tears I was so moved. Despite it feeling like a somewhat familiar story that we’ve maybe seen done before, if you can look past that you should see that the film’s got so much heart and soul and humanity for its characters that I was easily able to overlook its contrivances. Highly deserving of both its Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Actor, this is a worthwhile film that I can see being universally liked as it winds up being very effective on a lot of different levels. Up to and including the pitch perfect closing montage as the credits rolled.

[that sweet spot between a B and B+]

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3 thoughts on “A Trip To The Movies – Review: “St.Vincent” 1.4.14

  1. The opening sequence was phenomenal.. Bill Murray is fantastic to watch. Like his line @ the bar when asked if he’s been taking care of himself & Murray says, “Yea, I’ve been doing the Jane Fonda workout” & then does arm curls with his drink while saying, “1, 2, 3, & stretch” the stretch being him slamming his drink back & then he says to the bartender, “any chance you can make 1 of these [drinks] strong enough for someone who’s not your sister?”.
    He’s funny as shit to watch. His subtle movements & the delivery of his lines are brilliant as always in this.

    The next best part of this movie is the MUSIC. Awesome songs featured throughout that elevate some scenes from good to great – for example – when the boy picks the trifecta in the horse race & they win; the song “Further On” by Bronze Radio Return is then blasted, which is excellent. I thought the music stood out several times throughout the movie with songs featured by artists like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco or “Start a War” by one of my favorite bands, The National – I thought that was a really cool element of this flick.

    Otherwise, I did think this movie had its share of funny & moving moments.

    Melissa McCarthy I actually didn’t really mind. The scene where she’s called into the Principal’s office to talk about her kid’s behavior & the fight he got in to – where she goes on the long rant about her rough divorce situation & having to work long hours as a tech in the hospital felt fairly genuine in my opinion. Best role I’ve seen her in since her part in Bridesmaids which she’s now typecast to. (& that’s not too, too much of a compliment considering her recent movies have all been stinkers).
    & I’d definitely agree with your comment about being on the verge of tears during the climax scene where the kid pulls the whole movie together – thought that scene where he speaks of why he chose Vincent as his Living Saint was a terrific finish & pulled everything full circle. The actor that played the kid was very good.

    Overall, I’d grade this movie at about an 86/B
    On the year.. I would probably put it a hair behind a movie like “Begin Again”. Definitely worth renting

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah that opening sequence was a good one. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa”. Just maybe his character being a little less rougher around the edges than Billy Bob was in that. Plus the coincidental mentoring of the young kid who gets picked on at school by a disgruntled, drunken baffoon also mirrored “Bad Santa”.

      Besides a lot of the introductory scenes into Murray’s character like the ones you mentioned. I personally thought the best part of the film was at about the halfway mark when Murray suffers the accident and has to go through rehab therapy in order to gain his speech back. I thought these scenes were the most poignant as I thought they really delved deep into his character. As someone who maintains his rude/”fuck you and everyone else” selfish attitude, but puts it into a different context. Up to that point I felt like he was a bit too much of a bigot, but then after he suffered the accident he came across as being incredibly human. I also found the depiction between the relationship between him and his mother to be pretty heartfelt and moving. So in thinking back to it I think I liked the “dramatic” aspects more than I did the comedic ones. That being said I felt like the film was a fine example of both.

      Funny you should mention the soundtrack. I remember thinking it was pretty good and I could hear a lot of recognizable artists whom I’m familiar with but only by being a fan of theirs several years back. I was always a big Wilco fan but not so much a Jeff Tweedy fan (sort of like how I absolutely LOVE The White Stripes but can’t stand Jack White). The National I was once a fan of, but its been at least 3-4 years now since I’ve heard any of their material (though they do have a new documentary out called “Mistaken For Strangers” which I hear is pretty great). Bronze Radio Return I’ve never even heard of. But again, I remember thinking while watching it how much I dug the soundtrack I just had a hard time putting a name to any of the bands or tunes I was hearing.

      Lastly, McCarthy did a serviceable enough job but I felt like that role could have been played by any other comedic actress and would have come across as just as good. Also, Naomi Watts was borderline laughable as the stripper with the Russian accent. I usually love Watts but I thought she was terribly miscast in this.

      A better than average yet slightly below great film just for Murray’s performance alone. That and it had quite a bit of heart. I might be revisiting this one after the Oscar season to see how I feel about it a second time.

      Like

  2. Re: your comment: “I also found the depiction of the relationship between him and his mother to be pretty heartfelt and moving”.
    …That wasn’t Vincent’s Mother at the retirement home, it was Vincent’s wife! (with that said, to be fair, I know it’s been a while since you saw the movie & I saw it yesterday)
    Otherwise, I generally agree with your comments. That’s 2 movies in a row that we graded very similarly (this & The Theory of Everything).
    Enjoy the Oscars tonight bud

    Like

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