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He Said, She Said Review Site

St. Vincent

What She said:


Bill Murray has a tendency to be hit or miss with his movies, in my opinion. I mean, the critics seem to love most of his films, but some of his darker humor stuff often falls outside of my comprehension zone. Specifically, I just don’t get most of the Wes Anderson stuff. But that’s between me and Wes Anderson, and so I try not to over-judge Murray on those movies alone. However, he is a pretty weird guy, and so I never know what to expect. I held off on watching St. Vincent for this very reason—I just didn’t want another one of those movies that I didn’t “get,” and that I would be forced to sit through when I really wasn’t enjoying it. Plus, given Melissa McCarthy’s recent track record, I just was not convinced it would be any good. But The He and I finally decided to give the film a try, and I’m glad we did. St. Vincent has some genuinely good laughs, emotionally complex drama, and fun performances that make for a memorable movie.

St. Vincent

Vincent MacKenna is an unemployed Vietnam Vet who lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. I guess he’s technically retired; however, it’s clear that he really needs some money and that a job would do him good. He’s depicted as being a super grumpy drinker who also has a serious gambling problem. His home is extremely run-down and he drives an old jalopy of a car. We meet Vincent just as a new neighbor is moving in. In fact, the moving van backs into a tree in Vincent’s yard, causing a limb to fall and land on his car. Vincent is livid and takes out his anger on his unfortunate new neighbor, Maggie Bronstein.

Maggie is a single mom who is trying to start over with her 12 year old son, Oliver. Her marriage has fallen apart—apparently her husband was a repeat philanderer—and she’s struggling to make ends meet as a radiation tech. At one point in the film, she describes just how depressing her job is, seeing people scanned all day with a wide range of illnesses that she knows will kill them. Anyway, her new job is pretty demanding, and so she isn’t able to devote as much time to Oliver as she would like. This puts additional strain on Oliver as he begins at a new school with no friends to speak of.

St. Vincent

On his first day of school, Oliver is teased and has his phone and keys stolen from him. With his mom working late, he’s unable to get back into his home, and so he ends up next door with Vincent. Maggie talks to Vincent on the phone and begs him to watch Oliver, as she’s not allowed to leave work early. Vincent negotiates a price (he’ll pretty much do anything at the right price), and is amused to find that the very well behaved Oliver will just sit there and be harmless while Vincent gets paid. It’s a perfect set-up for him, and so he tells Maggie that he’s willing to babysit regularly, as long as he gets his $12/hr. Maggie, with few other options, agrees to this deal.

What results is an unlikely friendship that develops between Oliver and Vincent. It’s certainly not all good—Vincent takes Oliver to the racetrack with him, he gets to meet Vincent’s lady-friend who also happens to be a stripper and prostitute, and Vincent teaches Oliver to fight—but Vincent is also able to haphazardly fill a father-figure void for Oliver. We learn that Vincent does have a softer side, involving a wife that has been institutionalized because of Alzheimer ’s disease. Of course, things cannot remain perfect forever. Oliver gets in trouble at school and Maggie finds herself in a pretty bitter custody battle. Once in court, she learns of the unsavory things that Vincent has been doing with Oliver, including trips to the bar. Things are further complicated when Vincent suffers a debilitating stroke, rendering him even more grumpy and depressed. Oliver and Vincent’s very few friends band together to try to lift him from the funk, and Oliver even chooses Vincent as his hero for his school’s “Saints Among Us” project.

St. Vincent

I found this movie to be quite funny. Yeah, Vincent is not a good guy, but his mannerisms are also pretty hilarious. Some of the things that he does and says are extremely offensive, and he seems to get away with them because people write him off as a grumpy old man. Funny-lady Melissa McCarthy actually plays one of the less humorous characters in the film, although she does have some pretty good one-liners. It’s quite refreshing to see her playing a more emotionally wrought role, rather than just being goofy. Counter to the softer Maggie was the much edgier Russian prostitute Daka Paramova, played by Naomi Watts. I had to giggle at half of what came out of her mouth, and Watts was just phenomenal in the role.

The characters are very strong in this movie. Each is surprisingly complex. Some may complain that Vincent is not likeable in the least bit, and he really isn’t, but he does have a soft spot for his wife, and we can see how their relationship has torn him down through the years. He may not be someone who should be cheered, but he is deep character with many layers. Maggie is constantly smiling through tears, desperately trying to do what is best for her and Oliver. And even Daka has a heart. Yes, she uses Vincent for his money, but there comes a point where she begins to take care of him just because she knows he needs it. One other character worth mentioning is Brother Geraghty, Oliver’s teacher at school. Chris O’Dowd plays the character with marvelous spender. He’s very funny and fresh in the role.

While it did feel a little long—not sure why because the movie is still shy of two hours—St. Vincent had nice pacing and an even keeled storyline. I think it flowed well and was genuinely interesting to watch. I would not say that the plot was too complex; however, it worked well enough to serve its purpose. The film is a good blend between funny and heartfelt, kind of to the tune of The 40 Year Old Virgin, although not quite as raunchy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film, and would recommend it to adults who are looking for a breezy movie that’ll make you laugh.

Thumbs up.

What He said:

St. Vincent

Bill Murray is a very funny man, but that doesn’t mean I’m always eager to see his latest projects. The older he has gotten – and the more he’s moved away from things like Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Caddyshack and towards Wes Anderson movies – the more skeptical I have become about his choice in movies. Wes Anderson’s “humor” isn’t my cup of tea. I simply don’t find his movies funny and being that they are supposed to be comedies, that is a problem. So when Murray started to gravitate towards those types of roles, I became less interested in what he was involved in.

I also don’t think I’d like him as a person. His well-documented rivalry with Harold Ramis – most of which seemed to be results of Murray being an ass hole – is a turnoff. It started with “creative differences” during the filming of Groundhog day and continued through the years pretty much up until Ramis died. Another sticking point was the debate over whether to do another Ghostbusters film or not. Ramis and Dan Aykroyd wanted to, Murray did not. That’s fine. He’s not a bad guy for not wanting to do another one. But it’s the way he handled himself is what turned me off to him. There are rumors of his immature behavior. If I remember correctly, one is that he called Ramis – whom he had not spoken to in years – in the middle of the night only to tell him he wasn’t interested. Another is that he told them he’d read the script and when they called him, he said he threw it in the trash (and didn’t read it). Hell, I remember at one point Ghostbusters 3 was confirmed, as was his involvement.  That confirmation sort of disappeared, as if it was never announced, only to pop up again when Murray said he might be in it after all. Murray seems to like to play games or simply flat out be rude and that’s just not my kind of guy.

St. Vincent

Regardless, when he does something I actually find funny, like Zombieland for example, I enjoy watching him. So after doing a little reading about this movie, I decided to give it a chance. The reviews were good, the trailers looked funny, and it seemed like the Bill Murray of old.

St. Vincent is about a woman who is struggling to raise her son and their relationship with their new neighbor (they just moved into a new home).  That neighbor is…well he’s different.

Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy) is a single mom who is hoping to turn things around. She just landed a new job and bought a new house too, where she will live with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). She is hoping to start a new chapter in her life, because the last one didn’t go so well. I don’t remember if the movie said how long she has been divorced, but it did say that she is divorced because her husband was cheating on her.

Her new life starts off rocky, as the movers cause damage to a neighbor’s property. This neighbor is Vincent McKenna (Bill Murray). Vince is seemingly unemployed, not a particularly nice person, an addict (alcohol and gambling), and something of a con man to boot. Oh yeah, and his only friend is a stripper/prostitute named Daka (Naomi Watts).

It goes without saying, but Vince is not the kind of guy you want watching your kid, which is why Maggie is so reluctant to leave Oliver in his care. However, when her new job gives her more hours than she expected, and given that she doesn’t know anyone in the  neighborhood, she’s stuck and forced to rely on the cranky man.

Vince and Oliver are something of an Odd Couple. Oliver is a very kind and polite boy and Vince is neither kind, polite, nor a young boy. Vince has no idea what to do with the kid – let alone a good one – but since he has gambling debts, he’s all too happy to watch him and collect a little money. Vince is the kind of guy who feeds a kid sardines, takes him to the track, or to the bar, and sees nothing wrong with any of this.

The movie tells of their misadventures and examines whether this untraditional “family” can work or not. Maggie is really struggling, and does not like the idea of her son being around this slob, but he’s willing to watch the kid and she really has no other options. Vince seems inconvenienced by the whole thing, but also enjoys the company to an extent. Plus, he really needs the money. His bookie is hot on his trail for a mounting debt. His motives for watching Oliver are questionable at best. Oliver is the only one really open to the situation. He thinks Vince is interesting and fun, despite his hard outer shell.

St. Vincent

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, because as I mentioned above Murray’s movies as of late are hit or miss with me. Fortunately he was great and this was a “normal” movie and not a “Wes Anderson” movie. It wasn’t out of its way weird like some of the other “comedies” he chooses now. He portrayed the cranky, eccentric, but nice (in his own way) guy once you get to know him. He’s a very difficult man to be around at times, because he’s very flawed. H does have a heart though and can show it if properly motivated. Vince is one of those people who has a hard time being a decent guy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be.  Can Oliver help this cranky – if not self-destructive – man turn his life around or is this dog too old to learn any new tricks? You have to watch to find out.

Melissa McCarthy is also very hit or miss. Bridesmaids was fantastic, and from what I’ve seen of Mike and Molly, she is perfectly fine in that too. But she has had a ton of bombs in theaters and can sometimes try too hard. She did not in this movie and portrayed a struggling working single mother very well. She is very good at portraying normal people.

McCarthy’s performance was solid, and Murray’s was very good but the real stars here are Jaeden Lieberher and  Naomi Watts. I loved this kid. I thought he was funny, endearing, extremely likeable, and downright adorable. That might sound a little gross coming from a man (I think the actor is around 11 or so), but this kid was like a tiny little polite man and the only way I can think to describe him is adorable. I mean look at this picture. Between the way he looks – and his demeanor as the character – this kid screams Felix from The Odd Couple. I eagerly await to see what else we see from this kid. I don’t know if they found lightning in a bottle, he is extremely talented, or the director played a huge part in his performance, but I’m curious to find out. I simply enjoyed watching this kid perform.

Speaking of enjoying watching a performance, Naomi Watts was a pleasure to watch. She plays one of those people who wants to be a better person, but is very rough around the edges – and blunt. She is a stripper (not judging), has at least one client on the side in Vince (judging a little), but this is someone who does not want to do what she’s doing and wants a better life for both her and child (she’s pregnant). She lectures Vince for not taking care of himself and some other stuff, but walks around looking like…well a hooker. She’s rough around the images, but well-meaning. Her accent was impeccable too. I laughed every time she spoke. The stuff coming out of her mouth was comedic gold.

Chris O'Dowd played a teacher at Oliver's school and I have to bring up his performance too. It's a small role, but he is very funny. I find his delivery to be very amusing.

This movie reminded me of some comedy dramas I grew up on – like Parenthood – though it was a little darker/heavier at times. It also reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine, which is where the darker stuff comes in. Both movies are very funny, and deal with heavy things, but Little Miss Sunshine talks about it a little more explicitly or openly, to whereas the older movies only scratch the surface. What I’m saying is that it reminded me a lot of both types of approaches and I like both very much.

This movie is highly enjoyable. It’s funny, touching, and filled with good performances and an entertaining story. I haven’t seen many of the Academy Award nominees this year, but I felt this movie was good enough to at least warrant a nomination. I thought it was very good – better than the only nominee I did see (Boyhood).

Prognosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 8, 2015

St. Vincent