Film Review of the Week: St. Vincent

In a segment called "Delirium" that's included in the Jim Jarmusch film Coffee and Cigarettes, rappers GZA and RZA have a brief encounter with actor Bill Murray, or "Bill Motherfucking Murray," as GZA puts it. It's a short, 8-minute segment, but it shows just how well Murray and his deadpan delivery can liven up any scene he's in.

Murray's career as a comedic actor stretches back to the early '70s, but Murray, who's now 64, shows no signs of slowing. He's at the top of his game, and he appeals to fans of a few different generations, something that's apparent in his latest flick, St. Vincent, a terrific arthouse movie that opens areawide on Friday.

In St. Vincent, Murray plays Vincent, a cantankerous Vietnam War vet who lives alone in a dilapidated house that he's in danger of losing to foreclosure. When a Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door, he treats them like the plague, especially after her moving van knocks down a tree branch that lands on his car. But when Maggie pays him to babysit Oliver after the kid gets locked out of the house, he begins to realize he can start bringing in the extra income he desperately needs and accepts her offer to watch the precocious young boy after school.

Needless to say, Vincent isn't a good role model for the kid. He takes him to the racetrack and introduces him to the prostitute (Naomi Watts) that he bangs on a regular basis. When other kids from school start picking on Oliver, Vincent comes to his defense and even teaches Oliver how to properly throw a punch that will break a bully's nose. Eventually, Maggie starts to realize that it isn't appropriate for Oliver to spend so much time with Vincent. This, of course, creates a fair amount of tension, especially since the two are neighbors.

The problems then start to really mount for Vincent, who regularly drinks and smokes too much but still manages to care for his wife, who is living in a nursing home because her memory is shot and she doesn't even recognize Vincent when he comes to visit her.

But Oliver, whose teacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O'Dowd) has assigned him a report on an everyday person he knows who could be considered a saint, holds out hope for the grumpy old guy, even as he becomes increasingly difficult. Even if the ending is telegraphed, it's a poignant moment that again shows Murray's range as an actor.

With St. Vincent, writer- director Theodore Melfi has made a promising debut. The movie is well-written and Melfi gets great performances of the entire cast. Of course, it helps that Bill Murray is at the center of it.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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