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Everyone fumbles through life to some extent, and by end of St. Vincent, audiences will experience a unique combination of hope, honesty, and love.

Movie Review: ‘St. Vincent’

“That’s our neighbor? …it’s going to be a long life.” Bill Murray headlines the lively drama St. Vincent, which follows the exploits of a unique man who gradually reveals his true character to audiences, thanks to a boy who moves into his Brooklyn neighborhood. Director/screenwriter/producer Theodore “Ted” Melfi (Winding Roads) has constructed a realistic plot filled with situation and scenarios that tug at the heart and put a mirror to the audience.

Recent mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her 12-year-old son, Oliver move in next door to “Vin,” well played by Murray. Newcomer Jaeden Lieberher equals Murray’s strong acting in a natural performance, a potentially star-making role. Naomi Watts completes the main quartet as pregnant stripper Daka.

Melfi gets the settings, mood, and realism just right with the camera placement, lighting, tracking shots, slow motion, and special point-of-view camerawork. The dialogue is the movie’s strongest element, and all actors do it justice, and  through it, audiences get nice insights  into the characters’ cores.  Murray’s Vin immediately sets the tone at the beginning with a joke told at a bar, bringing the audience into his current lifestyle and his personality. “It is what it is,” a bank official tells Vin, who retorts his crude version – “you’re screwed and shall remain screwed.” It’s a line perfectly timed and delivered.

The seemingly self-centered Vin becomes much more than a voice of experience (and a vivid influence) for young Oliver as he spends more time under Vin’s care, due to Maggie’s challenging schedule as a medical equipment technician. Oliver’s classmate Robert Ocinski (Dario Barosso), unintentionally solidifies this arrangement. Terence Howard also has a small, but important, role as Zucko, as does Donna Mitchell, who plays Sandy (TV’s As the World Turns, All My Children).

Vin’s lessons to Oliver on his peculiar version of mitigation (while gambling) and self-defense are absorbed by the uniquely kind young man, although Oliver does not see Vin’s other indiscretions, like the ultimate downfall caused by his gambling.

Vin looks out for Oliver through his own perspective, while always keeping him safe (e.g. a sweet, and very telling, seatbelt scene). Vin’s personal and emotional shift eventually progresses every character’s development in the plot.

Vin provides numerous gems as well like alternatives to the usual “sorry for your loss” solace statement that produce intimate insights into the thoughts behind his actions instead of defensive, off-putting remarks like “you don’t know me.”

Yes, some of Vin’s behavior and statements are predictable at times, but still ring true at a perfect emotional pitch that doesn’t make you squirm in your seat. These situations can challenge audiences’ emotional thresholds at times, but the humor (occasionally dark) provides some relief.

The jokes come frequently, and usually from a warm heart combined with irreverence and sarcasm (for example, Maggie’s comment about the book The Giving Tree as Oliver reads it, and a teacher’s explanation of why the Catholic faith is best).

The sequence in which Maggie and Oliver assess Vin’s danger level, and Vin’s sarcastic comments about some fence installers were my personal favorite humorous moments. One of the movie’s best sequences features McCarthy in the school office talking with Oliver’s teacher, Brother Geraghty (Chris Dowd), and the principal. Maggie enlightens the faculty about Oliver’s traumatic incident in gym class, while moving the plot forward, and enlightening audiences about her character.

In the scene, Melfi uses a camera shot that gradually pans out from the door frame, giving the sense that you are watching something special/important, a technique often seen in classic western films. It gives the scene nice depth and symbolic purposes.

Familiar life lessons like “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and others run throughout the film, and by the end, the characters and plot present a collective view of life to which anyone in the audience can relate: trying to do things on our own power when we really need others; taking the time to get to know someone well, and considering how our actions and poor decisions reflect on us?

Everyone fumbles through life to some extent, and by end of this quality film, which climaxes with a special assembly relating to Oliver’s special class assignment, audiences can experience a unique combination of hope, honesty, and love. Stay for the ending credits as Murray continues his antics as the song “Shelter From the Storm” by Bob Dylan plays. Don Cheadle co-produced this film under Gartner Films.

St. Vincent comes recommended and is rated PG-13 for language, rude humor, and some sexual content.

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