I’m not particularly fond of American comedies that make me laugh “at” rather than “with”; I tend to avoid those types of movies because I end up feeling manipulated and uncomfortable. So by the time Bill Murray appeared in The Razor’s Edge (1984), I had only seen a small handful of his films. This movie though was a remake of a Somerset Maugham novel I particularly liked – and it was playing at my dad’s theatre. Dad called it – he said Bill Murray was incredible as a dramatic actor; however, the critics wouldn’t see him that way and pan him for it.
As a result Lost in Translation (2003) wasn’t such a surprise to me as it might have been to other Bill Murray fans. But St. Vincent is a revelation. Murray’s performance truly moved me – I laughed, I cried, I held my breath when he falls to the floor, passed out. Combined with Melissa McCarthy’s understated portrayal of a shaky single mom trying to make sense of her upside-down world and Naomi Watts as a Russian strip club dancer who is pregnant, the story engaged me right from the moment we meet Maggie (McCarthy) meeting her next door neighbour Vincent (Murray) for the first time.
You’d have to be blind not to notice the similarities between About a Boy and St. Vincent (single, curmudgeon/self-absorbed male mentors a young boy from a single parent family). For me, St. Vincent carves its own path. The film possesses an organic charm that really entertained me while opening my eyes to a couple of potential life lessons I need to investigate further for my own quality of life and peace of mind. While I’m partial to movies that demonstrate how the main character has a change of heart, I don’t like being hit over the head with it. Vincent’s sea change is subtle: by the end of the story, he’s still the scallywag he always was, but something’s different. He’s a happier man; he’s journeyed somewhere worth charting.
And kudos to selecting a Persian cat that mirrors Bill Murray’s facial expressions. Actually, the credits list two cats as playing Felix. So double kudos…the cheap movie Tuesday Oscar goes to Felix the cat.