Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Unlikely 'St. Vincent' Answers Prayers

Bill Murray just seems to have a knack for appearing in great movies.
Maybe it's his own intuition. He could have a keen sense of the right roles.
Maybe he simply has a good agent. If so, that agent's been working overtime.
Maybe he's just lucky. Still, few people have this much good luck.
Then again, maybe it's a combination of all of the above.
Murray defined a classic in Groundhog Day. He gave us a new genre in Lost In Translation. He was quirky and showed great depth and versatility in Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. And he proved to be surprisingly effective in both Hyde Park on Hudson and The Monument Men, two films which deserved larger audiences.
Now he's back with a nuanced, understated performance in St. Vincent in which Murray plays the curmudgeonly secular "saint" of the title -- a promiscuous, belligerent, sloppy, reckless, alcoholic as modern-day hero.
In this film, a young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely sitter, friend and sometimes mentor in Murray's character: a world-weary war veteran who seems misanthropic but who may be more helpful than dozens of socially-conscious others with the best of intentions.
So, it's the contradictions (and the pleasant surprises) that make St. Vincent so special -- along with its human sensibility, it's knowing script and the fine performances of a first rate cast paced by Murray himself.
As Oliver, the boy who Murray (sort of) befriends Jaeden Lieberher is smart and endearing without being insufferably precocious. As Murray's sexy, go-to-gal Daka, Naomi Watts proves she is one of the most versatile actresses working today. As Oliver's teacher, Brother Geraghty Chris O'Dowd plays it all with a wonderful gentle, knowing touch. And as Maggie (Oliver's mom) Melissa McCarthy delivers an eye-opening performance. We haven't been fans of McCarthy up till now but she's won us over in this film.
And then there's this: For once we get a three-dimensional, honest portrayal of modern American Catholicism and the Irish Catholic experience. Also, an equally honest look at familial relations (or lack thereof) and the state of our society (and our economy) right now.
This film is heartfelt, poignant, genuine and funny in a subtle but no less candid manner.
And look for the scene where Vincent and Daka go shopping at Buy Buy Baby as New Jersey's own Ron Bush plays the store salesman. Bush is one of our favorite rising young stars. He's wonderfully expressive.

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