Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie with Abe: St. Vincent

St. Vincent
Directed by Theodore Melfi
Released October 17, 2014

The meaning of a film’s title can be hard to discern, especially when it goes against what seems to be the truth. “St. Vincent,” which casts Bill Murray as a crotchety drunk very much in debt who watches his new single mother neighbor’s child only if she’ll pay him, seems to be sarcastic in nature since Vincent is anything but a saint. Yet this comedy packs a surprising dramatic punch that redefines its title, and the journey there is packed with humor and strong performances all around.

Shortly after destroying his own fence while carelessly backing his car into his driveway, Vincent angrily emerges from his home to find that a moving truck has hit a tree, causing a branch to fall on his old piece of junk car. Demanding payment for damages, Vincent takes no care to be nice to Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) or her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Maggie’s work circumstances force events so that Vincent is the only option to take care of Oliver, and what begins as a one-sided relationship gradually transforms into something much more heartwarming, even if Vincent never exudes much warmth.

Casting Murray and McCarthy, award-winning stars for their comedy work, makes this film seem like something other than what it is. It is deeply funny, to be sure, but there is more to the film than the simplistic poster, which shows Murray with a halo over his head, McCarthy with a smile on her face, and Naomi Watts’ Russian prostitute half-smiling, indicates. Though broader versions of its characters have been seen before, this still feels like an original story, one that proves to be highly enjoyable and involving all the way from its uncertain start to its triumphant finish.

Murray has occasionally veered into more serious territory, and while this is unquestionably a comedy performance, it’s also one of his most intentional and impressive. McCarthy tones down her character to just the right decibel, allowing for other players, like Watts in a great atypical supporting role and Chris O’Dowd as Oliver’s priest teacher, to take the spotlight. The real revelation is eleven-year-old Lieberher in one of his first roles, at once a precocious but believable kid with a mesmerizing outlook on life. Oliver’s sense of optimism and forgiveness is what makes this film really work, bringing together a few odd couples for an affirming and hilarious ride.


No comments: