St. Vincent

At the Movies Blog
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Oh boy. Where to begin. Okay, let’s start here. Can we please stop praising Bill Murray for playing these characters? Is it really that hard to play a crotchety old man that says sarcastic things every second? And fine, if the script is funny and you get Bill Murray – we’ll all love it. If you’re just trying to recreate Rushmore, with a younger boy, and want to use every indie movie cliché – perhaps a better debut movie from writer/director Theodore Melfi should’ve been made.

The most interesting thing Murray has done in years is his small role in Zombieland, and going up to people on the streets and doing wacky things (like sitting down at a couples table and eating their food, or photo bombing people at their wedding).

In this movie, Murray gives us an okay Brooklyn accent (that’s at times, a bit distracting). When his voice changes (SPOILER ALERT) from a stroke, it’s one of the rare times I laughed inappropriately in a movie. It just seemed so phony and…like it was Carl from Caddyshack (END SPOILER ALERT).

Vincent spends each day drinking, betting on the ponies, and getting 86ed from the local bar. He’s avoiding bills, his bookie, and any human that wants to interact with him. This means he’s not bringing over an apple pie when new neighbor Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in. She has a 10-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), and in the first of a few unbelievable plot points, he is hired to babysit the kid.

A handful of things in the movie worked. One of them was having McCarthy play it straight. It might be the only character she’s played in a movie (aside from Bridesmaids), where you actually like her and can sympathize with her situation (she has a husband that cheated on her and isn’t paying child support).

That means we get all the scenes you saw coming; the kid joining him at the bar, helping him win a trifecta at the track, and the boy seeing the good side of this old coot. That being him making pilgrimages to an old folks home to check in on a lady. The indie movie You Can Count on Me did all these things so much better. At least the two had chemistry.

Oliver is a cute kid and not too precocious.

As I write this, I’m still not sure how I felt about Daka (Naomi Watts), the pregnant Russian stripper/prostitute that Vincent is carrying on with. Vincent doesn’t care about the bun in the oven, and apparently neither do the other patrons at the club she’s dancing at.

Terrence Howard shows up in a few scenes threatening Vincent if he doesn’t pay up. The always welcome Chris O’Dowd plays a priest that’s more in touch with contemporary things (strange to think that in his last movie, he killed a priest). It’s a shame that the title of the movie is a bit of a spoiler alert when, after the boy and Vincent have a falling out, the class is given a project in which they find a person that would qualify as a modern day saint.

It’s so crazy to think that there’s a possibility Murray will get an Oscar nomination for this. It’s also bizarre that a lot of critics are calling the movie “hilarious.” I can count the funny scenes on one hand, although one of my movie pet peeves did occur a few times – idiots in the audience laughing at scenes that aren’t supposed to be funny.

The tonal shift of the picture doesn’t work and it’s maudlin manipulation of the worst kind.

Another problem this formulaic film had was that Vincent never cared about this kid. So when the reveal tells us things about his character that might make us like him a bit more, that still doesn’t change the fact that he’s a vile human being.

As a music lover, I’m always fascinated by what choices are made in regard to the music in a movie. It was great seeing Murray rock out with his old-school Walkman to Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line,” but when the rolling credits have him singing along to Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm” (one of the best songs ever), I just thought about how Jerry Maguire also ended the movie with that tune. I also wondered why they picked “Somebody to Love” as the song on the jukebox he’d do a crazy dance to. We saw Jim Carey do a crazy dance to that song in The Cable Guy. I’m surprised they didn’t show a flashback of Vincent in Vietnam carrying a soldier over his shoulder while “Fortunate Son” played.

This is going to be a crowd pleaser for the indie set and film festival crowds. I was rather disappointed with it, despite getting teary eyed a few times.

It gets 2 stars out of 5.

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