Monday, October 06, 2014

“St. Vincent”– Movie Review



Tonight, I attended a screening by The New York Times Film Club, the New York City Premiere of “St. Vincent”, a comedy-drama starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts.


When a scurrilous old man befriends a boy with recently-divorced parents, both wind up being each other’s best friends in a desperate time of need – but will their friendship jeopardize the custody battle the boy’s mother is fighting?


Fresh from a divorce, Maggie (McCarthy) is looking for a fresh start when she and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move into a house in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn – unfortunately, they’re right next door to Vincent (Murray), a grumpy, reprobate who lives by himself.  Right from the first day, their paths cross in the most unfortunate of ways and it seems they are doomed to forever be mortal enemies with each other.  But when Maggie’s job as a nurse requires her to work frequent overtime, she realizes she has no choice but to leave Oliver with Vincent and pay him to be her boy’s “babysitter”.

Unknown to Maggie, Vincent is teaching Oliver all of his bad habits:  they hang out in bars so Vincent can drink all day, they go to the racetrack so Oliver can watch Vincent lose what little money he has left and the boy even gets introduced to Daka (Naomi Watts), a pregnant stripper Vincent occasionally hires to perform “personal services” when he requires an outlet for female companionship.  When Oliver isn’t hanging around Vincent, he’s having a tough time at school – as the new kid, he’s encountering trouble adjusting and winds up being bullied by his classmates. 

Maggie learns that her ex-husband wants to take her to court to battle for custody of Oliver.  Just when she thinks she’s well on her way to having sole custody of the boy, Maggie discovers the truth about what Vincent and Oliver have been doing together while she’s at work.  Furious about having been scammed, she hires a real babysitter and forbids Oliver from ever seeing Vincent again.  But has Maggie acted in time or will she wind up losing custody of Oliver despite her best efforts? 



Despite being able to boast a noteworthy cast, there’s not much to recommend when it comes to “St. Vincent”, which was written by Theodore Melfi, who is also directing his first feature film.  With a witless, trite screenplay that strings together one predictable scene after another, no one in the cast – or Harvey Weinstein, whose company produced this tripe – will be able to seriously brag about “St. Vincent” being among their best work.  In fact, perhaps the less said the better.  Given the major acting talent at play here, it’s a shame they didn’t get material worthy of their talents. 

Fans of Melissa McCarthy will be disappointed in knowing that her part is very serious; she does not get a chance to do the comedy for which we all know and love her and she seems constricted in her scenes.  Murray gets to alternate between dramatic turns and the slacker type that he has played so well over the years.  Watts appears to be in this primarily for the opportunity to play a character with a Russian accent.  Maybe they were doing Weinstein a favor by being in this movie or perhaps there were other reasons for this choice.  Either way, they should be grateful that this is an immensely forgettable film.

Following the screening, there was an interview with the writer/director and most of the cast (McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd – who plays a priest – were not present).  Several times, Murray made the point of stating how easy it was to push around first-time director Melfi – and to make things even more awkward, he did not appear to be kidding.  Murray seemed annoyed at being forced to be present for this event and even went on to insult Melfi to his face by saying, “[Melfi] has a lot of energy and it takes a lot of energy to make a movie, even to make a really bad movie”. 

St. Vincent (2014) on IMDb

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