Tuesday, November 18, 2014

St. Vincent Review

Each week, my family and I partake in a phone call we have dubbed "Family Twenty." It is a time when we all can get on the phone with each other and discuss how are lives have been going. With my parents living in Peoria, Illinois, my brother in Seattle, Washington and myself in Chicagoland, this time is quite vital every week. Its a good time to sit down and see how everyone is doing. During a family twenty phone call in October, my parents mentioned they saw "St. Vincent" with Bill Murray and where impressed by it. Me being a massive Murray fan, I had to see this movie as soon as I possibly could.
"St. Vincent" is not the typical Murray quirk-fest, most of it isn't really funny. That is not to say its a bad movie, its actually a very good movie. I just have to warn that those of you who are used to seeing a particular version of Murray won't be seeing that version. While there are some charming, funny parts in "St. Vincent," its not a movie I would categorize as funny. This is not Murray being his typical comic clown. "St. Vincent" sees Murray playing a very broken man, and that is not the type of character we usually see Murray billed as. As I sat and watched the movie, I was impressed by how engrossed by it I was. This may not be Murray's typical cup of tea, but he knocks a homerun out of the ballpark. More on his performance in just a minute though.
Murray plays a man named Vincent, a man who is down on his luck. Vincent is a war veteran, but he spends his time drinking, gambling and watching strippers. He doesn't seem particularly motivated by life, and he does not have a lot of money. His gambling endeavors never span out, he is overdrawn at the bank, he owes dangerous people money. Soon, he comes into querrel with his new neighbors Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Maggie is also down on her luck, as she is a single mom who has to work a lot and doesn't get a lot of time with her son. Seeing as she has no choice, she allows Vincent to babysit Oliver until she gets off of work. Vincent desperately needs the money, so he reluctantly agrees to the deal and each party begins to mature because of the other.
The movie anchored by Bill Murray, and he comes off like a titan in this movie. He has an accent I can barely understand at times, he has a demeanor unlike anything I have ever seen from him. We sometimes match Murray with comedy, but he proved in "St. Vincent" that he has a massive range, something I hope he explores more. When I discussed this film with my parents, they heard a story about how Bill Murray was sitting next to the writer of this movie on a plane. Just for feedback, the writer dared to ask Murray for input. Apparently Murray liked the movie so much that he wanted to star in it, and he pulled some strings to help get the movie made. Not bad for a guy who is completely picky about a third "Ghostbusters" movie. In any case, I can really tell that Murray saw something special in this script, because he surely gives it his all.
Melissa McCarthy is also not one we normal tag as a dramatic actor. I mean just look at her work in stuff like "Bridesmaids," or "The Heat," or "Identity Thief,"or "The Hangover: Part III." She is, by no means, somebody you would peg as a dramatic actor. I will admit how surprised I was when I learned how good she is in this movie. Melissa McCarthy proves that she can be just as broken as Murray can be, and she can be just as convincing. They spark wonderful scenes in this movie and they create a chemistry that is unbearably good. I have to say that I was overwhelmingly impressed by what I saw from McCarthy, especially coming off the heels of the disappointing "Tammy."
The real discovery in this movie for me is Jaeden Lieberher. I have never seen him before, I was unfamiliar with the name until now. After the movie however, I think he is a bright young talent. In a world where it seems the same young actors are always up for all the title roles revolving young people, I think Hollywood overlooks rare talents like Lieberher. Lieberher is just as much an anchor as Murray is. Together, they set off fireworks onscreen. They are very good together, and that isn't bad for a young actor, standing front and center with Bill Murray of all people. To stand toe-to-toe with Murray and make it believable is a crowning achievement.
The other performances in the movie are good. I especially liked the appearances made by Chris O'Dowd, Naomi Watts and Terrance Howard. O'Dowd, who worked with McCarthy on "Bridesmaids" plays a priest and teacher at Oliver's school, and he is just as charming as usual. Naomi Watts plays a stripper who has a relationship with Vincent. We have seen Watts do sexy before, but this is a totally different kind and she nails it. I also like her maybe-Russian accent she sports throughout the film. Howard plays some kind of kingpin whom Vincent owes money too, and he's typical Howard, always on point.
The only glaring problem I have with "St. Vincent," is that I wanted more. Believe it or not, the "boy gets mentored by foul-mouthed asshole" is not a new idea. In fact, it is very quickly becoming a new Hollywood cliché. I mean, just this year we have already seen "Bad Words" and "Joe," two movies that dig into the exact same category. If you make a movie that we have seen before, you have to tell a good story or do something new with the material. "St. Vincent," doesn't do either of those things. Once Vincent and Oliver begin hanging out, and once they finally begin to trust each other, you can pretty much predict the rest of the movie. For Murray to be so openly interested in this movie, I expected a little bit more than what I got. It just seemed to me that this movie didn't really try to separate itself from the herd.
No matter what, this is a must see. Just to see how good Murray can be when he isn't making your stomach hurt from laughter every five minutes. I should say the same about McCarthy too, who does splendid work in the movie. Go to see another young actor throw down, an actor whose name doesn't end in Hutcherson or Hemsworth. There is a lot to like about "St. Vincent" and it will no doubt charm you.

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