In the world of comedy, is there anyone more reliable than Bill Murray? Not really. The man can make anything funny, rising above even some rather mediocre films. And Murray has never simply played himself. From his gopher-obsessed groundskeeper in Caddyshack to Scrooged’s narcissistic Frank Cross to his most popular character Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, there’s no role too small — even his cameo in Zombieland was brilliant. And now he gets to play yet another neurotic character, this time a crotchety old war veteran in Theodore Melfi’s hilarious writing/directing debut: St. Vincent.
Vincent (Murray) is a scruffy old-timer who loves his alcohol, gambling, and pregnant Russian stripper/prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts). His life doesn’t get any better when his new neighbor Maggie’s (Melissa McCarthy) moving van snaps off a tree branch that crashes onto his car. He also blames them for his ruined fence, something he did the night before driving home drunk. Maggie’s son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is having a rough time adjusting to his new school dealing with his Catholic teacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) and the class bully Robert Ocinski (Dario Barosso). One day, Oliver needs a place to stay after school thanks to Robert stealing his phone and house key. So Vincent lets him stay next door. Seizing the opportunity of extra money, Vincent takes Oliver in and starts babysitting him, and let’s just say hilarity ensues.
Melfi makes a fantastic debut making a film that would do the Sundance Film Festival proud. Considering it premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this is not a Hollywood affair and it’s all the better for it. Murray may be playing a grumpy old man, but he’s always sympathetic and while his babysitting techniques may include horse racing and hanging out at the bar, Vincent never puts Oliver in danger — he has the wherewithal to take a cab home after drinking. McCarthy shines as we have hoped she would when she’s not playing outrageous characters like she did in Tammy and is great as a hard-working mother dealing with her ex-husbands adultery. Lieberher plays off Murray with ease, which says a lot about a child actor making his big screen debut. Lessons are learned as they always are, but St. Vincent has tons of heart to go along with the laughs. St. Vincent continues to prove Murray is one of our most treasured comedians with no signs of slowing down.
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