Sunday, September 7, 2014

TIFF 2014 Film Review - St. Vincent

We first meet Vincent (Bill Murray) in bed with a pregnant prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts) mostly clothed smoking a cigarette and short of cash to pay Daka for her services.  Murray drives her to work at the local strip club; heads to his favourite bar gets blasted then cut off at the bar. Next he  heads home, backs over his fence and ends up spending the night face down on his kitchen floor.

The next morning his new neighbour Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in but her movers take out a limb on Vincent's tree that falls on his 80's convertible LeBaron bringing Vincent to his porch.  He seizes the opportunity to blame his new neighbour for the damage to his vehicle, tree and adds in the fence for good measure insulting everyone in site.

Soon after Maggie is stranded at work leading her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) to Vincent home They bond over his Persian cat Felix and a shared love of Abbot and Costello starting an after school babysitting arrangement for a fierce negotiated sum with contingencies for overtime hours. The pair spend each day together going where Vincent likes to and along the way Oliver manages to get his homework done and learns to defend himself gaining confidence and earning the respect of his classmates.

Director Theodore Melfi first feature is full of rich material. He also serves as writer producing crisp, sharp and witty dialogue between the characters. The part of Oliver is especially well written. The tendency may be to write a smallish grade schooler as sickly sweet instead Oliver is a matter of fact fully aware of the pending divorce between his parents and the vices of his new found friend. One would also expect with Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in above the tile roles that the project would bend towards comedy. Instead the dramatic passages outnumber the funny ones with Naomi Watts' Daka leading the comic elements of the film closely followed by Chris O'Dowd who is superb in the role of Oliver Catholic School teach Brother Geraghty.

A recurring theme throughout the production is Murray's constant need for money and his bad choices in his attempts to acquire it. Most of these bad choices start and end at Belmont Park leading to gambling debts owed to track bookmaker Zuco (Terrance Howard).  He is mainly in need of funds to pay for the residence and treatment of his wife Sandy who he visits, dressed up as a doctor as due to Alzheimer's she no longer remembers him. Vincent never fails to take taking home her weekly laundry when he leaves.

The role of Vincent is perfect for Murray. If you could jump back in time circa Stripes and Ghostbusters and envision a role for an aged Murray to play is would be the one. The supporting cast that has been highlighted thought this review all hit the mark with their roles.

St. Vincent is a warm uplifting film that turns 180% from it's opening sequences. It has more than expected highly charged dramatic moments and during the films cinematic climatic there is a very good chance your eyes may water ever so slightly.  It is a film that I can highly recommend.

*** Out of 4.

St. Vincent | Theodore Melfi | U.S.A. | 2014 |103 minutes.

Tags: Drama, Comedy, New York, Brooklyn, Belmont Park, Alzheimer's, Catholic School, Vietnam Vet, Mentor.

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