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‘St. Vincent’ takes you on an emotional rollercoaster

| Monday, October 27, 2014

st-vincent-webSUSAN ZHU | The Observer
I initially had no inclination to see “St. Vincent;” the “mean old man and young boy becoming besties” plot seemed contrived. However, while at home on break during my third consecutive hour in front of the TV, I watched Bill Murray on “The Ellen Show.” Promoting the film clad in a velvet maroon fedora, Murray went on about first-time director, Theodore Melfi. It seems odd that Murray, a big time, somewhat reclusive actor, would agree to star in a movie with a first-time director, but he said after reading the script he knew it would work and took the part of St. Vincent. Thank God.

Murray’s performance is phenomenal. The film opens with Murray’s character, Vincent, stealing an apple from a fruit stand as he passes by. The petty crime is worsened by the fact that he touched every type to find the best.

Vincent, a broke old man with a gambling and drinking problem who spends his time with “the lady of the night” is similar to the other lovelorn, exhausted characters he’s played in films like “Rushmore,” “Lost in Translation” and “Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou.” Perhaps Oliver, Vincent’s twelve year-old neighbor and source of income via his babysitting services, summed the character up best: “He’s sorta cool in a grouchy sort of way.”

Murray’s character has a depth exceeding the usual depressed, quirky characters he is known for, however. Although first presented as a grumpy slave to many vices, Vincent develops into a complex character.

Oliver, first-time actor Jaeden Lieberher and his mom Maggie, Melissa McCarthy, move next to Vincent after a rough divorce. Vincent takes on the unexpected role of babysitter — Maggie needs someone close by to watch Oliver after school as she works overtime at the hospital, and Vincent needs the money. So begins Vincent’s role as a modern day Mr. Miyagi.

He teaches Oliver to ward off bullies with a signature nose-breaking move, feeds him “sushi” (canned sardines), has him mow his “dirt patch” in the backyard and takes him to the bar and race track.

In one of the cutest scenes, the two win big at the racetrack but play it off as if they lost because a man Vincent owes money to is in the crowd. They proceed to run out to the parking lot in slow motion — an example of Melfi’s effective styling as a first-time director. The scene channels Wes Anderson’s recurring use of slow motion, as he is a director Murray has worked closely with.

Other details in the film emphasize Melfi’s involved directorial style, including a scene in which Vincent meanders all the way through a velvet-roped line at an empty bank to get to the teller.

Another standout moment occurs during the credits — so don’t leave early. Vincent steps outside to water a dead plant while singing Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” along with his yellow Walkman in a quirky, Murray-esque ending.

Melfi’s directorial approach is empowered by his witty, heartfelt script. Filled with hilarious one-liners delivered by every character, the film will have you laughing until you cry. Literally.

Although a funny film, the story has a depth that will leave you crying next to your dad in the theater, passing back and forth the one napkin you got for popcorn finger-grease. Tip: get more than one napkin or see it with a grandma who always has a pack of tissues in her “pocketbook.”

The plot is, at its basis, a well-known, somewhat predictable story; however, the performances and writing elevate the film to the “this is going to win Oscars” level it reaches. Go see “St. Vincent” to laugh, to cry and to see Bill Murray play his most “holy” developed character to date.

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

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