Monday, April 20, 2015

St. Vincent

St. VincentSt. Vincent (2014; dir. Theodore Melfi) is amusing and entertaining.  It’s also formula driven, the old story of an embittered and aging curmudgeon whose heart is softened by (in this case) a child.  Sometimes these stories are told with subtlety.  This one is not so subtle.  The key performers are Bill Murray as the curmudgeon, Vincent, and Melissa McCarthy as the boy’s mother.  I’ve not cared much for McCarthy’s work—she has dedicated herself to portraying overweight female buffoons.  Here she is subdued and more effective.  Most of the comedy is focused on Murray’s crabby responses to practically everything that confronts him.  He’s a gambling chain-smoking alcoholic.  He is good in this role, but he’s really enacting a character he’s played on and off since his Saturday Night Live years). I still think Lost in Translation (2003) is his best film.  This one hints (as these films often do) that there are reasons for Vincent’s crabbiness.  He’s a Vietnam war veteran. Several scenes show him talking to a woman who lives in a nursing home.  He wheels her around in a wheelchair, does her laundry, and gradually we come to realize who she is.  (She seems so placid and sweet that it’s difficult to imagine how she and Vincent could ever have gotten along.  Maybe they didn’t.) Vincent suffers a stroke after two crooks try to force him to pay his gambling debts, and in the end he is more a victim than anything else. St. Vincent basically suggests to us that a sweet and needy child, along with a caring prostitute, can solve just about any problem. I wish life were so easy.

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