On Bill Murray and St. Vincent, A Movie Review

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

StVincentMaybe there is a big reason as to why Bill Murray isn’t interested returning to the Ghostbusters universe. He looks ready to retire from the acting world for good after appearing in the movie St. Vincent. However, this film is not going to mark the end of his illustrious career as more films are in the pipeline featuring either him or his voice.

Although he’s the star of this comedic social drama about Vincent, an unlikable misanthrope, there’s a heart of gold that’s gently wanting to come out — hence this film’s title. He takes a liking to Oliver Bronstein (Jaeden Lieberher), a scrawny but very intelligent 12-year old. Lieberher provides some brilliant young Macaulay Culkin type moments and his talent should not go unnoticed, especially when his character is what ultimately wins many an audience’s heart. As Oliver, he’s tossed into a world he’s not ready for. The story mixes in elements of a coming of age tale along with awkward father-son style moments even though these two are not related. In the way they bond, they might as well be grandfather having fun with the grandson he never had much like how PIXAR’s Up, worked.

When Oliver and his mom, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) relocate to Brooklyn only to wind up next door to Vincent (Murray), their personal troubles are not going to end. It’s just going to get weird. When this codger is not willing to let anyone into his life, perhaps the familiarity will dissuade some from the plot. Movies released this year that include the road trip film Cas & Dylan and the slice of life romance And So It Goes uses a similar concept to bond people together. To see this film end off the year may do better if more time was put between these types of films just so not everyone will remember a previous product.

Unlike the other movies that feature a child to help provide the emotional resonance, Oliver is depicted as a boy who simply needs a father-figure in his life. When his “biological” father and mom are in a middle of a divorce, just what he feels for his real dad is unknown. Some filler could have helped flesh out this part of the film because what’s revealed by Maggie simply went by too fast.

Although his mom wants the best upbringing for him, is Catholic school appropriate? He’s the type of boy uncertain about his spirituality and because fellow school-mates laugh, he becomes easy pickings. When Vincent sees him being bullied, something about him changes. Although he remains cantankerous throughout the story, there’s a heart within him that only Oliver sees. But when he lives a dodgy life filled with sordid dealings with loan sharks and a Russian prostitute named Daka (nicely played by Naomi Watts), just what he needs to become is questioned. To see him teach the lad how to handle the tough life is filled with laughs and a nonsense that only Murray can only strategically and comically play up. As for how much of his lines are ad-libbed, only those people who saw this film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival may know.

That screening most likely had writer/director Theodore Melfi answering questions about the production afterwards, and hopefully those interviews will be made available in transcriptions or in the video release. In the moments that Melfi set up to block a scene, he most likely simply stepped back to let Murray create his gold. The later acts prove to be more poignant as this actor had to make audiences believe his character suffered through a horrible medical situation that he’ll take a long time to recover from.

After many films in the past ten or so years to showcase his diverse talent, like Lost in Translation (2003), Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), this latest endeavour is a fitting continuation to show that he prefers challenging roles over another mass-marketed product.

Ghostbusters is a franchise, and although fans would love to see a theatrical continuation, it’s honestly not needed. Murray knows it and just like his Vincent character, is unwilling to admit to it. Producers, studios and fans should just let some products have a beginning and an end instead of simply creating the demand for more.

4 Stars out of 5

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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