Thursday, 12 February 2015

St. Vincent (2014)

Bill Murray is back in comedy!! isn't he? well this is almost a comedy I guess, if you discount all the soppy emotional stuff. You know what really amazed me...the films poster, it has Murray strutting a familiar pose whilst smoking a cigarette in full view! Hey this is the politically correct modern era guys, you can't be doing that, think of the children!

So old Bill plays Vincent a Vietnam Veteran who lives alone in Brooklyn with his cat, his wife has Alzheimer's disease and stays in a nursing home which Vincent visits. Due to his age, loneliness and lack of money Vincent is a grumpy, cynical, gambling, boozing, smoking old man that doesn't have the time of day for anyone (accept his sick wife). He owes loan sharks money and his only real friend (of sorts) is a Russian prostitute whom he bangs. Can you feel the comedy here?

Anyway a new neighbour moves in next door who is a single mother (Maggie) raising a young boy (Oliver). Her job creates problems with picking Oliver up from school and looking after him in general so she reluctantly must fall back on Vincent to help out. Naturally Vincent being the kind hearted soul that he is sees this as an opportunity to make some easy money. What follows is the obvious bonding between the pair as Vincent realises there is more to Oliver than just using him for menial tasks whilst Oliver realises there is actually some good left in Vincent.

The main focus of this movie is of course on Murray and the young boy whom he kinda befriends along the way. In all honesty this character wasn't a million miles away from Murray's character in 'Lost in Translation' in the sense that both were lonely, cynical and kinda rude...oh and Murray played them both. Again I gotta be honest Murray's range ain't that great, he can do the sarcastic, deadpan, sneering asshole type very well, it suits his comedic style...well that is his comedic style. Unfortunately everything he does kinda feels the same even when he's clearly trying not too, hence this character of Vincent just feels like Murray being Murray as usual.

The plot is dangerously predictable and does end with a real mushy setup. It all kicks off with Vincent being rude and inconsiderate towards Oliver and his mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy trying to act but failing). Then as things progress Vincent starts to take a shine to the young lad as they go gambling together, visit his wife, going to bars etc...Vincent also helps Oliver to fight and stand up against a school bully. In turn Oliver helps Vincent mature and see things in a different light, helping him with daily chores and generally keeping him company etc...

Eventually it all goes pear shaped mainly because Vincent is being a bad influence despite actually trying to be a good influence or even a reasonable role model. Maggie's other half (a lawyer) restricts young Oliver from seeing Vincent fearing for the well-being of his son and Maggie to a degree. We then get the sequences of despair and emotional distress seeing Vincent at his lowest, running out of money, losing his wife, having a stroke and discovering he misses Oliver recognising they were actually good friends. But we then get the inevitably happy ending sequences where Vincent is nursed back to health with the help of Maggie and Oliver and Vincent kinda comes around. Its very much the stereotypical rollercoaster ride of starting low, the good times, the bad times and then finishing high again.

The story kept me interested but its not really that funny, its way darker and more dramatic than it lets on. Much of the Murray moments are pretty depressing, kinda poignant and basically miserable really, even the sequence where he helps Oliver from getting beaten up by the school bullies is actually a bit disturbing. I was expecting it to be funny but was shocked at how gritty and harsh that sequence was. The only amusing moment that stuck out in my mind (that I can actually remember) is at the start when Murray crashes his car into his own fence and manages to blame some removal men for it when they accidentally bump into his tree.
I guess the aim here was to create a crummy, sleazy, no good fraud of a guy who meets a young boy (young family) and gets his life turned around. Sure Vincent is an old miser but deep deep down he has a good heart and the other characters just need to excavate it.

Yep I'm sure that's the angle here but its lost in space, I can see the reason why people are hailing it as a solid movie for Murray but is it really?? Its not comedy, its nothing new and original and worst of all its just Murray being Murray...again, the only difference here being McCarthy NOT being a loud obnoxious cow. The entire Russian prostitute character played by Naomi Watts just left me confused, you could quite easily remove that character from the movie and nothing would change. I still don't get what she was suppose to be there for...and why pregnant? that was never even touched on I do believe, it just made things more awkward.

This is not a bad film don't get me wrong, its a decent emotional ride with solid performances. But in my view it was rather depressing and not overly enjoyable...until the very end with the obligatory weepy finale. Am I being too stern here? maybe but I'm still surprised at how genuinely gloomy this all was. I like Murray and he does a good aging curmudgeon with a sharp tongue...but he's done this type of thing before and usually with more laughs. Hence I still stand by Sofia Coppola's Nippon based story as one of Bill Murray's best characters in crisis.