COURTESY ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANYJaeden Lieberher

COURTESY ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANYJaeden Lieberher

Bill Murray makes ‘St. Vincent’ real

Bill Murray, star of “St. Vincent,” once was under consideration as the lead in Terry Zwigoff's “Bad Santa.” It would have required him to play a drunken curmudgeon who is somewhat reformed by a nerdy, kindly child.

Now, in “St. Vincent,” he at last has the role. He plays Vietnam War veteran Vincent, whose expenses include booze; a pregnant, Russian prostitute, Daka (Naomi Watts); and fancy cat food for his squash-faced feline.

He lives in Brooklyn off of a reverse mortgage, which recently has run out. At the same time, newly divorced nurse Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her sweet, but scrawny son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door.

With Maggie busy at work and Oliver picked on by bullies, Vin agrees to look after the kid for an hourly wage.

The movie adds, but forgets about, Terrence Howard as a debt collector on Vin's trail. The usual stuff follows, with Vin taking Oliver to the racetrack and to a bar, and teaching him how to fight the school bully. Oliver, on the other hand, teaches Vin that caring about someone isn't so bad. Several montages help spell things out.

This formula has become a staple, and honestly, if Murray wasn’t the lead, the movie wouldn’t be worth much.

Murray is put to perfect use. His jerky behavior is not based on anger, but on a kind of freedom, and he’s quite appealing. Newcomer Lieberher makes a good, unflappable partner, and a nice foil for the master comedian.

Writer-director Theodore Melfi, in his first big movie, introduces the welcome theme of sainthood. Oliver's Catholic school teacher (Chris O'Dowd, very funny) asks his students to find a modern-day one. Very few would argue that Murray's Vincent doesn't qualify.

A decade ago, instead of taking “Bad Santa,” Murray made “Lost in Translation” and earned one of history's few Oscar nominations for a comic actor. Now, because the Oscar voters like accents and diseases (Vincent has a Brooklyn accent and recovers from a stroke), he's getting buzz about a possible second nomination.

Thankfully, Vin or Murray – (or it is both)? – does not seem to care about such things. As the movie ends, he takes to his lawn chair, caterwauling a Bob Dylan tune and spraying everything in sight, even his own slippers, with his garden hose. For a saint, this, not any award, could be the secret to true happiness.

REVIEW

St. Vincent

three stars

Starring: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts

Written and directed by: Theodore Melfi

Rated PG-13

Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes

artsBill MurrayMoviesst. vincentTheodore Melfi

Just Posted

Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based vendor, is under contract to supply voting machines for elections in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/Examiner file)
Is San Francisco’s elections director impeding voting machine progress?

Open source technology could break up existing monopoly

The 49ers take on the Packers in Week 3 of the NFL season, before heading into a tough stretch of divisional opponents. (Courtesy San Francisco 49ers)
‘Good for Ball’ or ‘Bad for Ball’ — A Niners analysis

By Mychael Urban Special to The Examiner What’s the first thing that… Continue reading

Health experts praised Salesforce for keeping its Dreamforce conference at Moscone Center outdoors and on a small scale. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Happy birthday, Marc Benioff. Your company did the right thing

Salesforce kept Dreamforce small, which made all kinds of sense

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, pictured with Rose Pak in 2014, says the late Chinatown activist was “helping to guide the community away from the divisions, politically.”
Willie and Rose: How an alliance for the ages shaped SF

How the Mayor and Chinatown activist shaped San Francisco, then and now

The Grove in Golden Gate Park is maintained largely by those who remember San Francisco’s 20,000 AIDS victims.<ins> (Open Eye Pictures/New York Times)</ins>
Looking at COVID through the SF prism of AIDS

AIDS took 40 years to claim 700,000 lives. COVID surpassed that number in 21 months

Most Read