A young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran who lives next door.
Year 3, Film #32
THE GOOD: Watching St. Vincent was a constant affirmation of some of the things I hold most dear in life: being able to laugh at pretty much anything and caring unconditionally for those you hold most dear. So it comes as no surprise that this is not only one of the funniest films of the year, but it also ranks pretty highly on the emotional and touching side too.
Bill Murray, as one would expect, is the real star of this film playing the cranky old curmudgeon Vincent McKenna. He brings his A-game back to the big screen on the level of Stripes or Caddyshack levels of comedy. Not only does joke after joke come effortlessly, but it also comes spontaneously. I’m not sure how much, if any, of this film is improve, but it speaks to Murray’s talent that the line between the two is seemingly nonexistent. And that’s the brilliance that was so great about Murray back in the 1970s and 80s and what’s so great about his performance as Vincent in this film. He’s able to make anything funny and turn a joke about even the worst things that happen in the film. For an example, Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy) receives a notice that her ex-husband is petitioning for full custody of their child, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Vincent’s response, as the neighbor/babysitter, is, “Well there goes my job security.” It’s a joke that works on many different levels and these can be found littered throughout the entire film.
It’s more than just the Bill Murray show though which is what help elevates St. Vincent above the rest. Murray provides enough laughter himself to carry a movie but we’re blessed to have almost every actor be unbelievably hilarious. Melissa McCarthy provides a bit of fresh air from her typical type-cast role as the stupid, fat, who will do anything she wants. Being the mother in this film forces McCarthy to be more restricted and controlled, but she is still able to let out some jokes as Maggie. Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) also delivers big time with some spot-on remarks and reactions to the students in the Catholic school that Oliver attends. One of my favorite lines was his comment on why Roman Catholics are the best religion (answer: they have the most rules).
Most surprising of all though was Oliver, a little 12-year-old kid played by a first-time actor. A good majority of the film was just Oliver and Vincent stuck together in a variety of locations and seeing what the result was. And the surprising part is that Lieberher was able to stand his ground against the veteran Murray. Yes, Murray had most of the punchlines but Lieberher was a fantastic setup man and is a big part of the success of the comedy. Without Oliver, Vincent’s yammering and politically-incorrect musings wouldn’t have had the same effect. They still would have warranted a chuckle, but Oliver as the setup and right-hand man to Vincent provided for a great relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts.
THE BAD: My only complaint is about Naomi Watts’ character, Daka, or as Vincent refers to her, a “lady of the night”. Not so much the character or the role she plays in the story, but the decision to make her character Russian. Watts did a phenomenal job with the accent and was able to keep it consistent throughout the film, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still distracting. Every time Daka comes on means you need to pay extra attention, and you probably won’t laugh as much or as hard compared with some other characters. Daka does provide for some entertaining moments (the “lady of the night” remark and the baby-crib shopping are two notable ones), but overall she pales in comparison to the hilarity that ensues with Vincent and Oliver.
THE TAKEAWAY: Laughing is all well and good and it’s always great when a film is loaded with terrific performances, but there’s something else that makes St. Vincent special. This is my favorite comedy so far this year, but what happens at the end caught me a bit off-guard. I won’t state explicitly what happens, but suffice to say that the title of the film is a big giveaway. Oliver gives a great speech at the end that was so heartfelt and powerful that it almost had me leave the theater in tears. It’s a message that I think we all should listen to closely: we all have people in our lives who have made an impact — tell them how much they mean to you and pass on the torch to someone else. Be a Saint and be there for someone; you may have flaws and imperfections, but so does everybody else. You can still do amazing things for other people.
St. Vincent opened in limited release on October 10 and will expand nationwide on Friday, October 24, 2014.
THE RATING: 5 out of 5