There are lots of things you can do with Bill Murray if you’re lucky enough to have him appear in your movie. One of the most rewarding, as Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson have found out, is to place him in the midst of a real feel-good story. St.Vincent, the impressive feature debut from writer/director Theodore Melfi taps into this morish Murray quality with ease and provides one of the most rewarding performances of 2014.
Murray stars as Vincent, a grizzled vietnam vet who spends his days drinking, gambling and having lazy sex with his pregnant ‘lady of the night’ girlfriend Daka (Naomi Watts). This comfortable if questionable existence is turned upside down when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door and start imposing on his day-to-day life. Full-time nurse Maggie works unsociable shifts, leaving her introvert son without any after-school supervision. When some bad kids at school steal Oliver’s clothes and house keys, a one-off afternoon at Vincent’s soon becomes a regular occurrence, especially when his new babysitter realises he can charge for his services.
As their forced hang-outs increase, this unlikely duo start to bond in true feel-good movie fashion. Vincent helps Oliver stand up to his high school bullies and Oliver helps Vincent avoid some goons at the racetrack. Vincent gives Oliver the unconventional father figure he’s been lacking and Oliver helps Vincent discover a new lease of life. When Vincent takes Oliver on a trip to see his ill wife at a secluded care home, cracks in his icy demeanor appear along with the possible reason behind his current money woes and downward spiral. After a run in with some wronged moneylenders leaves Vincent in the hospital, it’s up to his new friend Oliver to get him back up on his feet and remind him of his worth.
With St.Vincent, director Jonathan Melfi introduces us to an unlikely group of characters that somehow come together to fit perfectly for his heartwarming climax. Melfi’s eye for gathering a great ensemble cast is impressive – Naomi Watts’ Russian prostitute and Chris O’Dowd’s jaded priest schoolteacher add welcome extra colour to his already dazzling palate. Speaking of which, it’s the relationship between Murray and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher that makes St.Vincent as enjoyable as it is. Murray’s on top form. Crass and funny, raw and nonchalant – he’s firing on all cylinders and doing what he does best. Meanwhile Lieberher is pin-sharp, witty, smart and confident enough to bounce off this comedy legend like it was a walk in the park. No easy task.
St.Vincent looks at relationships and family in a funny, unconventional and poignant way that shows us help can be sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places. It’ll warm your heart and make you laugh and when it comes to finding a good film to watch, what more do you really want?
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