St. Vincent: Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery!

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St. Vincent:  Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery!

When I was a kid, I had one of those paint by numbers kits.  I loved it.  It made me an instant ‘master’!  Well, if I didn’t know better, I would swear there was a Wes Anderson Make a Movie by numbers kit stashed under writer/director Theodore Melfi’s bed.  It seems like the only way to explain how the novice filmmaker became a ‘master’ with his first feature film “St. Vincent”.

The comedy with some soft dramatic edges has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson film:  older adult male mentor to a boy, a bully, school uniforms, artistically composed visuals, arresting soundtrack mixed with coming of age trials and tribulations.  Oh yeah and Bill Murray, a perennial Wes Anderson favorite!  Plus a kid that looked so much like a Coppola that I had to look him up to make sure he wasn’t Jason Schwarztman’s son!

But all comparisons to Anderson aside “St. Vincent” is a brilliant first effort by Melfi.
When an overworked, newly separated mother and her young son move next door to an alcoholic, gambling, gruff senior they find their lives immediately entwined.  First, her moving company crashes into Vincent’s tree, causing a limb to fall on his car.  Vincent demands retribution for the damage to his car and fence.  No matter that he was the one who knocked down the fence when he pulled into his driveway the night before, drunk as a skunk.

When the young boy comes home from school the next day he is locked out because a school bully took his phone and keys.  He prevails upon Vincent to let him use his phone and ends up staying there until his mother returns.  Before you know it, Vincent is the kid’s babysitter, not because he cares but because he is dead broke.  And boy what a babysitter!  In no time at all young Oliver is getting schooled in trifecta betting, nursing homes, barflies and ladies of the night.

Bill Murray as “St. Vincent” is at the top of his game, even if it is not a character that is new for him.  You have seen him like this before but he is just so darn good at it!  He moves so seamlessly from comedy to pathos that you have no choice but to join him for the ride and buy into anything he sells you.

Helping Murray sell is another newcomer, Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver.  What a little trooper this kid is!  He holds his own in scene after scene with the seasoned pros without missing a beat.  And what pros!  Melissa McCarthy plays his mother Maggie, in the first role in a long time that lets her act and not just be the mad cow in a china shop.  She is funny, tender, vulnerable and wonderful.   Naomi Watts as Daka, an Eastern European lady of the night, takes some getting used to but in the end is a joy to watch.  Pregnant with a questionable dialect, I didn’t even recognize her at first.  And it’s easy to see why Dario Barosso as Ocinski has plenty of experience playing a bully because he’s so darn good at it.  His experience really shines through when he transitions into good friend.  But I swear there just has to be some Coppola blood in that kid somewhere.  Or at the very least eyebrow genes!

In the end many a lot of love is revealed with a feel good Hollywood ending.  And you will feel good when you leave “St. Vincent”.  I know because the audience for the viewing I attended applauded warmly.  Pretty rare for a movie these days. 


“St. Vincent” paints up 4 Red Vines for being an outstanding freshman effort

 


Previews of these movies were provided to me by the studios but it in no way affects my unbiased review.