St. Vincent: Comedy with Bill Murray as Leading Man

st._vincent_1_murray_melfiThe only reason to see this sloppy comedy is Bill Murray–and Bill Murray in a leading role, for a change.

Theodore Melfi acquits himself better as a director–getting good performances from his entire ensemble, than as writer.  The script is shallow and cliche, due to the fact that Melfi has borrowed so many ideas and characters from other fictional features and tales.

Melissa McCarthy plays Maggie, a single mother who moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), who is 12.

Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave Oliver in the care of their new neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling.

st._vincent_5_murray_melfiSoon, an odd friendship blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with a pregnant stripper named Daka (Naomi Watts), Vincent brings Oliver along on all the stops that make up his daily routine – the race track, a strip club, and the local dive bar.

True to the format of many Americam coming of age tales, Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a responsive and responsible man.

Oliver reciprocates with offering the older, cynical man a significant reward: He begins to perceive him in a way that no one else has been able or willing to, as a misunderstood man with a good heart.

Vincent lives alone with his cat in a run-down, cluttered Brooklyn house that’s meant to reflect his desolation. Always unkempt, he likes to smoke, drink, gamble.  By now, Murray can play his world-weary expression in his sleep, but he somehow manages to find new nuances, new shades in what has

Boasting an authentic accent, Naomi Watts plays Daka, a pregnant Russian prostitute with a heart of gold.  As Murray’s new neighbor, Maggie, Melissa McCarthy is cast for a change in a straight part.

st._vincent_3_mccarthy_watts_melfiBill Murray has not made a good film, in which he is the leading man rather than secondary character, in a decade, and so the good news is that St. “Vincent” is his movie—Murray owns every scene he is in.

What’s remarkable about Murray, who is 64, is that unlike his cohorts of the first SNL generation, especially Chevy Chase and Steve Martin, he has continued to work steadily, though largely in low-budget independent films.


Over the past decade, you could see him to an advantage in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” and in almost every film Wes Anderson has made, the good (like “Rushmore”) and the bad ones.

It’s hard to fathom exactly what makes Murray run, or what are the ingredients of his charisma and talent—certainly not looks or physical attributes. There’s always been an element of mystery to his comic clownish performances, laced with more serious touches.

Unfortunately, the movie is sloppily made and technically shapeless, and as good and dominant as Murray is, his appeal can compensate only up to a point for the comedy’s shortcomings.