Regular Dude Movie Review: St. Vincent

The second half of Bill Murray’s cinematic career has been truly fun to watch as he’s transformed from a sarcastic funnyman into a great actor that also happens to be a sarcastic funnyman.

In St. Vincent, Murray shines as Vincent McKenna, a crusty, battered drunk who is so beyond broke that he’s dodging loansharks, in debt to the bank and a couple payments behind for the adult company he receives from his favourite pregnant stripper, Daka (Naomi Watts). “He doesn’t like people and people don’t like him,” as Daka puts it at one point in the film.

Then single mom trying to stay afloat Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher), move in next door and inject themselves into Vin’s life thanks to a broken tree branch and a locked door. Sensing a chance to make a couple bucks, Vin offers to babysit Oliver after school and things pretty much go as you would expect a “Cranky Old Guy mentors Smart Scrawny Kid” movie to go.

Here’s the thing though: Murray and the rest of the cast do such a strong job with what they’re given that it becomes easy to ignore the tried and true path this movie follows.

After too many consecutive over-the-top funny girl roles, McCarthy is great playing the exhausted mother trying to make things work. She is too great a talent to be constantly playing essentially the same character, and hopeful this doesn’t become an outlier amidst a sea of “Trademark Melissa McCarthy” roles going forward.

Lieberher stands tall next to Murray, nailing what it’s like to be the bookish new kid in school that doesn’t have many friends before starting to spread his wings and pick up some of few positive elements he can glean from Vin along the way. The easiest way to explain it is that he doesn’t come across as a young actor playing the kind of dorky kid that befriends his drunk, crusty old neighbour/babysitter – he just seems like a kid that would begrudgingly accept hanging out with a surly coot like Vin over sitting at home by himself all night and it works.

Though he doesn’t get a lot of time, Chris O’Dowd makes the most of his opportunities as Oliver’s teacher, Brother Geraghty. With the amount of genuinely unfunny people getting television shows and movies, O’Dowd seems like someone that is thoroughly under-utilized in Hollywood right now. Hopefully that is by his choice and not a network/studio decision because the comedic Irishman is consistently great.

Murray, of course, shines brightest of all here and likely will end up with an Academy Award nomination for his work here. What makes his portrait so much fun is that instead of being the sad, angry old drunk next door, he’s still full of piss and vinegar (and bourbon and smokes), getting the most he can out of life while trying to figure out how he can make a couple bucks, which usually means a trip to Belmont and crumpled up wagers on longshots that didn’t come in.

St. Vincent is funny, charming and easy to enjoy and Murray deserves all the praise he’s receiving for this performance.

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