NOPE – Is it just me, or does it seem as though Bill Murray has been trying to win an Oscar now for almost 30 years? An internal stomach grumble, that most likely began stirring after his critically acclaimed post-SNL dramatic turn in The Razor’s Edge (1984) and then left him at the Academy Award altar with Lost in Translation (2003), rages on in the funny man in his search for “serious actor” validation.
His latest attempt, playing the down-on-his-luck loser Vincent in writer-director Theodore Melfi’s debut, St. Vincent, probably looked like a slam dunk on the page. But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium…like a horribly inconsistent accent, a contrived pack of cliché circumstances, and an implausible supporting cast.
I know I will probably be in the cynical minority that found this picture insufferable. But it is.
Vincent owes money to both his inexplicably sarcastic and dismissive bank and his inexplicably glassy eyed and ultimately dismissive bookie at the race track. He smokes and drinks, tells corny jokes, and hangs out at strip bars. He drives a whacky car and wears goofy clothes. He’s even mean as hell to his new neighbor – a nurse! – who just moved in with her small son. What a louse!!!!
But just in case you start to think he’s unsympathetic, well…not so fast. He also served in Vietnam and regularly visits his ailing wife in a nursing home (remember, the title of the film is St. Vincent – hint: this is a clue). This film literally attempts to be special every 18 minutes like clock work. And enough already with the whimsical off-beat folk pop songs that go hand in ham hand with these pre-packaged “I want the soundtrack” comedies.
Unlike the exceptional About a Boy or the rough and tumble Cassavetes film, Gloria, St. Vincent never lands in that desired two-worlds-collide, unlikely adult becomes parent sweet spot that stories like this require to be effective. This one smacks of contrived from the jump.
The young boy is raised by an overworked single mom and complains about nothing. He gets bullied at school – and on the way home. Other kids laugh at him because he’s new. He’s the smartest person in the room – always.
Why the filmmakers thought it a good idea to have Murray tackle a blue-collar Boston accent opposite Naomi Watts’ Russian pregnant stripper-hooker is beyond me. Scale them both way, way back to their natural charm and talents and there might be a watchable picture here.
Melissa McCarthy makes a decent attempt, but she is not all that believable as the young boy’s mother. And the boy, played precociously by Jaeden Lieberher, is pretty tedious with all the “wise beyond his years” pearls he drops on all of the clumsy adults in his life. Terrence Howard needs to fire his agents. His roles in the Godawful Prisoners and now St. Vincent are seriously lacking in any significant meat on the bones. This guy’s a good actor. Wasted in this picture for sure.
I wanted to walk out two minutes in to this film. Should have trusted my instincts.