Bill Murray pushes himself in St Vincent

Bobby Townsend headed to the Moonlight Cinema in Sydney to review the latest offering from writer/director Theodore Melfi, in which Bill Murray pushes his boundaries:

Some actors can elevate movies. Bill Murray in St Vincent is the perfect example of a film being taken to higher levels by its lead. Without him, St Vincent could have been overtly saccharine but the great man’s deadpan performance grounds it and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable yarn, in spite of a few flaws.

Flaws? Indeed. The main one being that it is hardly the most original story in the world. Innocent young kid from a single-parent family turns up on grumpy, world-weary old man’s doorstep? Am I watching Up? Can you work out how the narrative might arc? Do you think that this mismatched pairing actually teach each other things and change each others lives for the better? Similarly, as the film reaches its conclusion, there is a pretty hackneyed climax which yanks heavily on the heart-strings. However, Murray handles it so perfectly that, even though I knew I was being manipulated, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Not only is Murray outstanding, but Melissa McCarthy performs to her usual high standard as a downbeat, stressed single mother who moves into a new home in Brooklyn. Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave her 12-year old son Oliver in the care of their new next-door neighbour, Vincent (Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. Meanwhile, Jaeden Lieberher is great as the weedy door-latch kid who needs to learn to toughen up. Add to this a preggo Eastern European stripper Daka (played by a ludicrously Eastern European-accented Naomi Watts), and you’ve got the recipe for disaster.

Despite the aforementioned problems and even though it lands dangerously close to As Good as it Gets, this film most certainly is not a disaster. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is a lovely story with plenty of very funny moments (my first laugh came within ten seconds) and with characters you’ll really care about. Murray pushes himself further, I think, than he ever has before. I can’t explain why without giving away plot spoilers, but suffice to say his performance in the second-half of the film is incredible. As always, he’d be worth the admission fee on his own, but as it is, the rest of the cast make this a really enjoyable and quite moving experience.

Moonlight cinema is currently taking place across Australia. There are heaps of amazing films to check out – including old classics and brand new offerings – from a beanbag under the stars. It’s all BYO too, so you can take a picnic and some vino and get proper comfy. For more deets, head over to the Moonlight Cinema website.

Meanwhile, St Vincent will be released in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day. 

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Words by Bobby Townsend