Bill Murray has been no doubt one of modern cinemas premiere comedic stars. There was a time somewhere around the late 90’s that his star power seemed to fade, but he proved still a force in Hollywood. This year alone he has already had roles in two other movies besides “St. Vincent”, those being the excellent “The Grand Budapuest Hotel” and also “Monuments Men”. Now he teams up with first time feature film director Theodore Melfi and comedy superstar Melissa McCarthy in “St Vincent”. “St. Vincent” showcases a good future for Theodore Melfi, featuring sharply written dialogue and well rounded characters. “St. Vincent” however falls into the trap of over sentimentality and too many tonal shifts. Never the less this film provides many laughs and plenty of heart and show Murray in his best performance since “Lost in Translation”.
A single mother and her son move into a new neighborhood. Next door to them is a misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran. Trying her best to raise her son on her own, the son starts to spend time with this new neighbor as this rowdy and rude man becomes a father figure to him and thus sparks an unlikely friendship.
Playing this mean and off the walls older man is Bill Murray. Murray is firing on all cylinders here in his best performance since “Lost in Translation”. Murray’s deadpan approach at humor works well with his character’s smart ass remarks. Yet his range goes beyond just that, he hits the more quiet and tender scenes as good if not better than his comedic ones (something that Murray has shown to excel at. ) He manages to walk a fine line between likeable and unlikeable. Murray’s character (Vincent) does many things, so many people would condemn, drinks too much, goes to strip clubs, takes a young kid to the race track to place bets on horses; not exactly the best role model. Yet at the same time he does show a different side, a side where you can see why this young kid who gravitate towards him.
The relationship between these two characters share is very touching. It’s built from the ground up, they have an interesting back and forth towards one another while Murray and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher have wonderful on screen chemistry. It evolves throughout the movie; you can see the father figure in Vincent while also seeing why they respect one another as equals and friends. Most writers would simply focus on the father figure angle between Vincent and Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) but writer/director Theodore Melfi not only does that but also shows these two as friends; friends with a close, connecting bond.
Theodore Melfi also showcases himself as an excellent prospect for the future. He is able to write comedy as well as he can write drama. Melfi also show a knack for creating some real feeling down to earth characters that the audience can really get behind (even if one or two of them are overly eccentric). Yet he does run into some issues later in the film.
The issue that hurts “St. Vincent” as a whole is somewhere around the middle of the film. I said in the last paragraph that Melfi can write comedy as well as he can write drama; the issue comes in when he has to blend those two elements together. Sometimes he can’t seem to reconcile the two tones and doesn’t seem to know whether he wants to be making a comedy or drama. Other times he can mesh them together well, while the other times it falls flat. The biggest offense he commits is Melfi gets overly sentimental as the film progresses. This is no doubt meant to be an uplifting film but I felt like a nail was getting drilled into my head at certain points into the film and made for a weaker second half.
However as you can tell from earlier in this review, Melfi is very good with actors (Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher), yet he also gets maybe Melissa McCarthy’s best performance of her career. McCarthy steps away from her normal roles from “Bridesmaids” and “Identity Theft” to something more real and tangible. She seems like the mother most would want to have and has a real warmth to her. Many might be growing tired of her comedy shtick (if anything “Tammy” could be indicative of that), and this role shows a different side of her and a possible new direction in her career.
“St. Vincent” is far from perfect, and has a better first half to it than a second half but this definitely entertaining. I am greatly looking forward to what comes next for Theodore Melfi in his career, and “St. Vincent” does show a man with great talent (not to mention a memorable Bill Murray character) and a good future ahead.