A lot to like about ‘St. Vincent’

Bill Murray, as Vincent MacKenna, provides wisdom and guidance to next-door neighbor Oliver -- all from a lawn chair.

Bill Murray, as Vincent MacKenna, provides wisdom and guidance to next-door neighbor Oliver — all from a lawn chair.

The critics are busy compiling their lists of the top 5, 10, 15, 40 — even 100! — movies of 2014, so I suppose the time is ripe for me to write about at least one: “St. Vincent.”

It’s not because the film tops my list of favorites. And it’s not because I think Bill Murray deserves the Best Actor Oscar, though I do think he deserves a nomination.

Rather, it’s because it’s the only recently released film I’ve seen in the past month. (I do hope to see “Wild” before the year ends.)

Lori and I saw it the day after Thanksgiving. It was one of those films where I went into the theater knowing nothing about the story and came out thinking two things: 1) That was a nice little story, with a made-for-Hollywood ending; and 2) Bill Murray was perfectly suited for that role.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll try not to divulge too much. However, there’s a lot to like about the film.

st.vincentposterMurray plays an aging Vietnam vet named Vinnie who lives alone in Brooklyn — unemployed, disheveled and grumpy —  while his wife, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, resides in a nursing home. Melissa McCarthy (obscenely funny in “Bridesmaids”) is a frazzled single mom who moves in next door with her scrawny, bullied son. Out of desperation, she agrees to pay Murray to watch the boy after school while she works long hours as a medical technician.

An unlikely friendship develops between the two. Hard-drinking, chain-smoking Murray teaches young Oliver how to defend himself, takes him to the race track, even takes him along on visits to his wife. Oh, and did I mention Vinnie “dates” a pregnant Russian stripper/hooker played by Naomi Watts?

The boy gains self-confidence and over time sees qualities in Vinnie that others don’t. It all leads up to a school assembly where students honor their heroes. The movie’s title tells you all you need to know about Oliver’s choice.

Going in with no expectations, I found myself easily drawn in to the stories of the four main characters, all flawed in some way but each one deserving of a better deal in life. That they come together in the end — and how — is the stuff that Hollywood films are made of.

“St. Vincent” may not be Best Picture quality and Bill Murray may not be (quite) Best Actor material — I really won’t know until I see more of these films certain to wind up on the Oscar-nominated list. But I can say it’s an entertaining film with a feel-good ending. Implausible? Probably so. Formulaic? Sure. But, then, that’s why we go to the movies.

Two thumbs up.

For other takes, read these reviews:

Vince Mancini, Filmdrunk

George Grella, City Newspaper

Owen Gleiberman, BBC

Photograph: The Weinstein Company

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2 thoughts on “A lot to like about ‘St. Vincent’

  1. You pretty much nailed it, George. The ending, as Laurel said, is manipulative. I said corny. But we both enjoyed the film. Murray is excellent. All are, really. We come to understand why Vincent is the way he is, and have empathy for him; we learn more about everyone else, as well. One comment about scenes in the boy’s classroom in the Catholic school: They were well done — Chris O’Dowd as the teacher is most enjoyable — but it might lead some to think that such schools talk about nothing but saints and saintly ways.

    • Thanks, Dan. I think you and Laurel are both right about the ending. But even when you could feel it coming, it didn’t detract much from the scene. We could all use a little more appreciation for acts of kindness, big and small, subtle and obvious.

      And I agree that the classroom scenes were well done. O’Dowd could pass for a priest in real life.

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