Movie Review - St. Vincent

There's something intrinsically funny about watching Bill Murray, grisled, disheveled and boozy, cynical and dismissive for the most part, yet taking time in a darkened corner of a bar next to a jukebox to dance joyously to "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane. There's also something intrinsically funny about watching Bill Murray lean in a lounge chair in a dirt backyard in Brooklyn and water that yard with a garden hose, while he listens to a cassette Walkman, singing "Shelter from the Storm" by Bob Dylan.

The impulse to laugh at Melissa McCarthy can be overwhelming, but writer-director Theodore Melfi pushes her more toward a grounded and serious performance. Melfi doesn't always succeed. A scene that forces McCarthy to break down and cry can't help but have one toe in the comedy pond.

This is particularly so because it's a semi-Bridesmaids reunion. McCarthy received an Oscar nomination for her role in that all-female comedy that also featured Irish actor Chris O'Dowd as the police officer love interest to Kristen Wiig. Here, O'Dowd plays a priest and teacher at a Catholic elementary school.

While McCarthy can be more serious, O'Dowd cannot. Even harkening to his role earlier this year in Calvary, as he dons a priest's collar here, O'Dowd can't help but be a bit of a goof ball. It's a shame that he's not given a scene of dialogue opposite Murry in this movie. O'Dowd's goof ball, upbeat and jovial nature would have been a great counterpoint to Murray's rough and bitterness. Murray's course and biting, irreverent humor probably would have been better bouncing off a man in a priest's outfit.

Instead, Murray's screen partner for a good majority is a prepubescent boy named Oliver, played by Jaeden Lieberher. I suppose there could be comparisons to Rushmore, a vastly more engaging film because it gave Murray a screen partner who could match him. Lieberher as Oliver is fine, but it becomes how less there is to him once he's placed side-by-side another child actor here, and that's Dario Barosso who plays Oliver's bully-turned-best friend.

Naomi Watts is interesting as a pregnant prostitute. Terrence Howard reprises his role from Johns (1996), another vastly more engaging film. This is unfortunately not the first time Howard has reprised this role.

What redeems this movie is the great performance from Bill Murray. As much laughs as he gets, he also gets some tears. His accent and the use of his voice in the beginning and toward the end of the film are spot on. The look on his face when he believes his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer's recognizes him as well as the look on his face afterward are crushing. His scenes with his pet cat, an all white Persian, are sweet too.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 42 mins.


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