Saturday, October 18, 2014

St. Vincent

Wildly funny Comedy
Review by James Colt Harrison
Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Cast: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Nate Corddry, Ann Dowd, Donna Mitchell

Bill Murray appeals to an elite group of film fans. However, in the new comedy St. Vincent Murray revives his curmudgeonly persona and takes it to new heights and wins kudos for characterization. Murray is a mess, a shambles, an unshaven alcoholic and a war veteran. He doesn’t give a hoot about much of anything except drinking and relaxing in his home that looks as though it has not seen a vacuum cleaner in 25 years. There hasn’t been a point to his life until now. 

New neighbors move in next door and Vincent could care less. When the moving van crushes his picket fence and a tree branch falls onto his car and smashes the hood, it gives him an excuse to emerge from his cocoon and rail against the new neighbors. Melissa McCarthy as Maggie, is a newly divorced nurse with a son Oliver, played by terrific new-comer Jaeden Lieberher. It’s an auspicious meeting that annoys Vincent . You can see by Vincent’s actions and body language that he is going to hate his new neighbors. 

Lurking somewhere in that gruff exterior is a man who may have a heart. His idea of fun is to play the horses---and lose. His bookie, played by a menacingly charming  Terrence Howard, wants his money. Vincent is broke and needs money to pay his bookie and the Russian hooker (Naomi Watts) who also is a source of pleasure. Watts hilariously lays on the Russian accent as the no-nonsense business woman who plies her wares for hard cash. 

When Maggie needs to work two shifts at the hospital, she asks Vincent to watch her 10 year-old boy. Vincent is willing to be Oliver’s babysitter for an hourly wage to earn some money. McCarthy is good in this role that is not exactly a comedy role but one that she can play as a real woman who has concerns for her son. Vincent becomes an unconventional mentor to little Oliver, who is smart as a whip. Oliver has some funny scenes with his Catholic teacher ( an amusing and fun young Chris O’Dowd) because he is Jewish! 

Murray’s character thaws somewhat toward the boy and becomes his mentor. Naturally, he corrupts the boy by taking him to the race track to learn about gambling and has him sitting in bars with Daka the “woman of the night,” (Watts). Oliver loves all this excitement and he adores Vincent like a father. 

Young Oliver is played by newcomer Jaeden Leibher and is a wonderful foil to Murray’s laconic comedic style. The boy holds his own with the master Murray, and the two play off each other like pros. Murray so loved the boy he signed on to do his next picture with him as directed by Cameron Crowe. They make a terrifically funny pair. 

Yes, the film is loaded with some sappy scenes and the pathos is slathered on thickly like frosting on a chocolate cake. But that’s what makes it so yummy! 

Murray is a revived comic hero in St Vincent. With so many great supporting actors such as the beautiful Donna Mitchell as his ill wife, O’Dowd as the funny Catholic teacher, Nate Corddry as a frustrated banker and Ann Dowd’s all-business assisted living administrator, the film is a triumph for first-time writer/director Melfi.

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