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Movie Review: St. Vincent

In 1998, Bill Murray’s acting career was on the fritz.  It had been years since his last great comedy, Groundhog Day, and after a series of critical and box office duds like Larger Than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little, Murray was in need of a change.  Lucky for him, director Wes Anderson, along with co-writer Owen Wilson, wrote a part just for Murray.  Rushmore was completely different from anything Murray had done before, yet it played up perfectly to his comedic strengths.  It was the most serious Murray movie to date, but he was still hilarious in it.  Murray’s career was officially back on track, and he even received some Oscar buzz.

Since Rushmore, it’s like Murray has decided that he wants to win an Oscar and will only take on roles that might get him there.  This has resulted in a few decent films here and there (Lost In Translation earned him an Oscar nomination), but as time has passed his films have been dropping in quality and he’s further away than ever from his coveted Oscar.  In fact, if it weren’t for Wes Anderson, he would have no interesting roles, save for a few fun cameos (including Zombieland and Get Smart) in the past 10 years.  Movies like Get Low and Hyde Park on Hudson seem like nothing more than dramatic and failed attempts to grab another Oscar bid.

St. Vincent is his latest attempt, and although it’s not his worst, it’s still nowhere near his career highs.  He plays Vincent, a grumpy, broke old man with an alcohol problem and gambling addiction.  He is mean to everyone, but reluctantly agrees to watch his 11-year-old neighbor because he needs the money to pay off a bookie.  Eventually, he and the child bond.  He teaches the kid to fight, gamble, and they have fun together.  We find out that Vincent had a tough life, and that deep down he might have a heart under his crabby exterior.

The problem with this movie is that at no point to we see anything to make us believe that Vincent is really a good guy.  He doesn’t really seem to change much by the end of the movie.  The other characters inexplicably like him because the plot tells them to, and eventually he just gives up and lets them help him.  They’re lives are no better for being around him.

Murray is a great actor and my all-time favorite comedian, and he is great in this movie.  In fact, without Murray this would have been a total train-wreck.  With Murray, its actually not bad.  There are some great moments and he and the kid have some good chemistry.  But you can tell that this is director Theodore Melfi’s first full-length feature, as a lot of the dialogue is really hammy and seems forced.

Bill Murray has famously been without an agent for the past 20 years, and it shows.  It’s like he’s just puts a bunch of scripts up on a dart-board and goes with whatever hits.  As one of Bill Murray’s biggest fans, I sincerely hope that he hires someone soon who can help him start making great movies again.  Until that happens, check out St. Vincent.

Grade: C+

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