Front Row at the Movies
Bill Murray Wears Crooked Halo As "St. Vincent"
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Bill Murray is impossible to dislike. An easygoing, droll comedian, we grew up watching him on Saturday Night Live. And we loved the lovable doofuses he played in his early movies -- from "Caddyshack" to "Stripes" to "Ghostbusters" -- and forgave him when he tried to turn serious in films like "The Razor’s Edge."
We didn’t mind when he played a misanthrope in "Scrooged" because we knew that by the end-credits he would see the light and hoist Tiny Tim onto his shoulders. Or in "Groundhog Day" we knew he’d do it over and over till he got it right.
As he got older, he took on tougher roles -- "Lost In Translation," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," "Broken Flowers." But that was okay because he wore well.
Now Bill Murray gives us "St. Vincent," which is billed as a comedy. But it is not. Here he plays a mean-spirited, cantankerous, bawdy, rude, dishonest, drunken, unkempt, chain-smoking, conniving, greedy, whore-mongering, obnoxious, cranky curmudgeon. Did I mention he doesn’t like people?
It’s the kid (12-year-old Jaeden Lieberher) who serves as the catalyst for the predictable story, one that is as familiar as "The Kid" or "The Karate Kid." A grumpy old man who befriends an inept young boy, helping him overcome obstacles.
Going through a divorce, a new neighbor (Melissa McCarthy) has little choice but hire Vincent as an unlikely babysitter. He takes the kid to the track, goes drinking in a dive bar, introduces him to a Lady of the Evening ("A woman who works at night?"), teaches him how to fight dirty.
Okay, maybe Vincent has a few socially redeeming qualities. He visits his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, her mistaking him for a doctor. He helps a pregnant Russian stripper. And he protects the boy against bullies.
That’s why by movie’s end he is dubbed St. Vincent of Sheepshead Bay -- part of an Everyday Saints program by a priest (Chris O’Dowd) at the kid’s school.
Yet, at the end of the movie there’s no epiphany. Still a not-nice grouch, Vincent lolls in a broken-down lounge chair while watering his grassless lawn with a hose and singing along to a Bob Dylan song during the end-credits.
"St. Vincent" is now playing at the Tropic Cinema.
So why bother seeing this movie about a mean old man?
Great performances. Bill Murray is pitch-perfect as Vincent. Melissa McCarthy underplays her part with precision. Naomi Watts surprises us with a comic turn as the pregnant stripper. And Jaeden Lieberher is a natural as the kid who looks up to this disreputable old bastard.
And despite this being a rather sad story, you’ll laugh. In fact, you’ll guffaw. And maybe shed a tear.
No, you just can’t help but like Bill Murray even when he’s being unlikable.