Last year’s great movie line came from Bruce Dern in Nebraska, “Drinking beer is not drinking.” This year it’s Bill Murray defining the fundamental lesson of life, “You work, you get paid, then you drink.”
Though the previews for St. Vincent, much like this year’s The Skeleton Twins, are unfortunately misleading, its comic moments are superseded by its dramatic impact. It is a very good movie, so hitch up your horse to a wagon and take a peek.
Let’s face it, Bill Murray deserves to be acknowledged in the “Irreverent Actors Hall of Fame”. No one has ever been able to match his sarcastic persona, and you can only assume that he is exactly the same person off screen as he is on.
Here, playing a slacker named Vincent, his life is all but meaningless. An overweight alcoholic, he is in debt to a bookie (Terrence Howard) resulting from his ineptitude at the racetrack. The only thing he’s good at is smoking.
He’s largely ignored by everyone but a pregnant Russian prostitute named Daka, played perfectly by Naomi Watts. However, she only has time for him when he has accumulated a few dollars to pay for her services.
When a recently divorced mother, Maggie, moves in next door with her young son Oliver, Vincent agrees to babysit the lad for $11 an hour given her need to work overtime as a lab technician and his need for cash. And it was at that moment that the film found its loveable momentum.
To being with, of all Vincent’s faults, he wins the grand prize for being shamelessly untrustworthy. He not only takes Oliver to racetracks and bars, but introduces him to Daka when she comes over to “visit”. However, this is a bright kid, and he learns some valuable lessons from his otherwise condemnable experiences with Vincent.
Melissa McCarthy plays Maggie, and she is at her best when she is able to dial down her excesses. Though she was great in the incredibly funny Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013), her last film, Tammy, was a mess.
Here, you can’t help but like her performance as a single mom trying to make a living and keep her ex-husband from seeking custody of their son. However, besides Mr. Murray, the star of this movie is young Jaeden Lieberher. Playing Oliver, he is an observant little kid who is able to see Vincent’s strengths. Among other memorable moments, he feeds off Vincent’s advice to adjust to his new school.
The movie has an ending that will cause many of you to wipe away tears, and I don’t dare give it away. Suffice it to say that Oliver discovers that Vincent is on disability from the military following his service long ago in Vietnam, and the unknown woman whom they regularly visit at a retirement/disability center is suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimers that will break your heart.
As to whether I can predict you will like this movie, let me just ask you how you felt about Mr. Murray’s performances in The Royal Tennenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and this year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel? Buy a ticket and enjoy.