26 nov. 2014

St. Vincent (7/10): Bill Murray makes it worth your time.

“I honestly don’t remember.”

If you happen to look at the poster for St. Vincent you might go into it expecting a full blown comedy, but you would be surprised because this film takes a much more dramatic and sentimental approach. There are several funny scenes of course because Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy are involved, but it’s also touching and emotional. There are many comparisons in tone with Jack Nicholson’s As Good As it Gets because the lead character is a grumpy old jerk who the audience is forced to sympathize with. It is a very fine line that an actor has to walk through when portraying a character such as this because the performances can seem cartoonish and forced at times, but Bill Murray pulls it off in a very authentic way. His character actually feels real in this movie despite all the flaws with the script and the overly familiar plot. St. Vincent follows pretty much all the cliches in the genre where you have this grumpy man being softened by a kid in need of a father figure (think Up, Big Daddy, Bad Words, Bad Santa, among others). Even Michael Douglas starred in a similar role this year in And So It Goes. The difference however with that film is that Bill Murray was able to make his character feel believable. St. Vincent is worth the watch because you get to see one of the greatest comedic actors in a lead role, and that is something rare these days. The film may be formulaic and sentimental but Murray makes up for its flaws and turns this into an enjoyable experience. I have no idea where the Oscar buzz came from because it isn’t even close to being a groundbreaking film. It is way too familiar and full of cliches, but Bill Murray gets to do what he does best and that for me is a good enough reason for recommending this film. Director and screenwriter Theodore Melfi’s greatest asset is Bill Murray; without him this film wouldn’t even be talked about. 

I know that I’m being unfair with the rest of the cast by giving Bill Murray all the credit, but there are also some very interesting performances from them as well. It was a pleasure to see Melissa McCarthy playing a hard working single mother. For the first time she didn’t get a character that was screaming all the time (she is funny doing that but she was getting typecast). She gives a genuine and toned down performance and I hope she gets more roles like this. Naomi Watts played a Russian hooker (a lady of the night is how Murray’s character explains it to the kid) and I actually enjoyed her performance as well. I thought she nailed the accent and had some funny scenes. Chris O’Dowd shines as the teacher of a Catholic school and Terrence Howard makes a couple of screen presences as well. The sweet kid is played by Jaeden Lieberher and he also delivers a believable performance and shares great chemistry with Murray. This is the sort of sentimental film which audiences will love, and thanks to a strong cast many critics may be won over as well despite all the flaws. In the end my major complaints are that everything is resolved a little too tightly and some of the subplots could have been explored a lot better (like Murray’s relationship with his wife). It is a feel good movie which Murray sells really well despite being mean spirited throughout most of the film.


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