St. Vincent

Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent is a less introspective Alexander Payne film that features high-caliber performances from A-listers (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts) in a story about miserable people behaving badly. And as is true of Payne's movies (Nebraska, Sideways, About Schmidt) what is delivered, though serious, is often quite funny. Murray plays a lonesome Brooklyn crank who has a fondness for slow racing ponies, his white Persian cat and a pregnant Russian hooker and pole dancer (Watts). Into his life comes new neighbors young Oliver (the totally winning child actor Jaeden Lieberher) and his divorced mom Maggie (the reliable McCarthy). Oliver is a runty but perspicacious lad who takes to grumpy old Vincent, despite the man's protests, after Mom hires the old guy to babysit Oliver while she's at work. Vincent's idea of babysitting is hauling the kid to the track, giving him pointers on fighting dirty and, oddly, taking him on visits to a nursing home in the city. In many ways, the story's arc is pretty conventional and the last 10 minutes are calculated to wring the tears but that can be forgiven because Murray is marvelous as a pugnacious mess of man who simply wants this bitch called life to cut him some slack. Highly recommended.


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