Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Sneak Peek: ST. VINCENT

Yesterday took a cool little turn in the early evening.  An hour or so before I was to finish work, I got a quick text and managed to net myself a seat at an advance screening of the new Bill Murray film, St. Vincent, with a Q&A afterwards with the director, Theodore Melfi.

The film itself, I liked a lot.  This is the third advance look I've managed to score for a Bill Murray movie (the others being Lost in Translation with Sofia Coppola in attendance and then The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), which is crazy to me as it happens that I'm a huge Bill Murray fan and have been since I was a child, when Meatballs was released.  I actually just finished reading his book Cinderella Story, which I also enjoyed even though I know precious little about golf.  It's still a fun read.

Anyway, the film was hilarious, naturally, but also dramatic with a great deal of humanity. The plight of the single mom (Melissa McCarthy) was handled well in this way and McCarthy is better here than I've ever seen her.  She seriously nails her part.  Naomi Watts was decent and her character grew as the film went on, though the character seems the most unreal in the story.  Terrence Howard needed more scenes.  He plays the heavy but just gets dropped from the story completely, which was a shame.  As Oliver, the child actor Jaeden Lieberher is a highlight.  He's natural, makes a strong impression and his scenes with Murray are uniformly good.  And Murray's a pro.  You know going in that he'll deliver and he does as expected with humor and humanity.  He, McCarthy and Lieberher are the home run hitters, here.

Like last year's Nebraska, this one's a low-profile story about people on the ropes, emotionally.  These aren't shiny happy people holding hands.  They're not living the life.  They're dealing with stress and disappointment.  The film deals as much with the trials of aging, sickness, loneliness, single parenting and loss as it does with crotchety old man humor.  Every little joke has a darker statement seething just under the surface.  It's not the end all be all of cinematic experience but I teared up a lot during this thing, easily able to identify with the experiences of all three of the main characters; they're that relateable and effective.  Maybe it won't resonate with a lot of people the way it did with me but then again those people can always just sit back and enjoy the pleasures of seeing a decent film devoid of waste or overproduction and maybe get a few laughs while they're at it.

The film's director Theodore Melfi was also gracious and happily related stories about the production (working with Harvey Weinstein, casting Lieberher and McCarthy, tracking down Bill), the real-life inspirations of the story and characters (his daughter, wife, mother and father-in-law) and that one of his primary inspirations for the tone of the film was Disney's Up, another film with a young boy/older man relationship at its core.  The screening and Q&A were fun and the audience was appreciative.

A solid night at the movies for me, and, it seemed, many.

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