"St. Vincent," the new film starring Bill Murray, tells an old-fashioned Hollywood feel-good tale. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, and produced by the Weinstein Company, there's nothing particularly experimental or edgy or innovative about this movie. It's the story of a cranky old Vietnam vet and his improbable friendship with a young boy named Oliver.
That said, I loved this movie, and heartily recommend it. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. It showed me some great characters all trying to figure out this thing we call modern life.
So ... what more do you want from Hollywood?
The plot is basically about a divorced mother (Melissa McCarthy) with one young son (Jaeden Lieberher) who moves next door to the Vietnam vet, Vincent McKenna (Bill Murray), in Brooklyn, N.Y., one day. "Vin," as everyone calls him, spends his time drinking, gambling, and patronizing his "lady of the night." He eventually offers to babysit the young boy, Oliver, after school. Slowly, somehow, they become friends. Vin teaches Oliver how to fight. And how to gamble. And, possibly, something about saints that Oliver isn't learning in his Catholic school classroom.
Before I went to see this movie, I did a little research "lite" on who St. Vincent de Paul was,
thinking of the movie's title and my Catholic upbringing. (In the Catholic Church, Vincent de Paul Societies are charitable organizations in parishes. My father was a member of the one in our parish.) According to my dictionary, St. Vincent de Paul was a French priest who lived from 1580 to 1660, well known for his charitable works.
Good to know, I thought. He was a real person.
When I went to see the movie, it seemed fitting that there was a Catholic school -- a very ecumenical one -- called St. Patrick's involved in the story. Fortunately, the filmmakers don't clobber us with this connection. However, the connection -- though un-referred to -- is there.
Every movie is a collaboration of many artists and craftsmen and individuals. From the writer to the cinematographer to the script supervisor, a good film is the product of many talents. But particularly with a movie like "St. Vincent," it's hard to overstate the importance of its star, Bill Murray. Murray is in almost every scene of this movie. And the film has heart because Murray, beneath all the sour expressions and nasty attitudes, has given his character a heart.
After the Oct. 22 early-bird matinee showing at the Cinemark Century theater in Evanston, Ill., I spoke with Dennis Roszak, 63, a healthcare company buyer from Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood who had just seen "St. Vincent."
"I liked it a lot," Roszak said of the film. "It was a heartwarming story. Bill Murray, I thought, was excellent. I think Melissa McCarthy just played herself," he continued. "She was good."
Near the end of our brief chat in the theater's lobby, Roszak gave a good summation of one of the movie's themes.
"It ... showed," Roszak said, "you don't have to be rich. Everybody has to deal with a lot of crap in life, but you can also be happy."
In addition to talking to Mr. Roszak, I also checked out some blogs to see what people thought of this film. Possibly the biggest thumbs-up came from Rev. Hollywood, who said "St. Vincent" was "one I've eagerly anticipated, and it does not disappoint."
A blogger known as baileypop titled her review of the movie "Same Grumpy Old Story, Different Cast." However, she also wrote that the work has "a great cast that makes up for its pandering 'feels.'"
A blog from an online talk radio station, in a post dated Oct. 24, crowned "St. Vincent" its "Flick Pick of the Week," saying that it was "not much of an award contender, but ... a perfect vehicle for the legend Murray."
Finally, a blog from Variety reported that our cinephile friends in France will be able to start watching "St. Vincent" on their country's version of Netflix on Oct. 24, the same day as the film's wide release in the U.S.
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