Film review: St Vincent

Bill Murray is brilliant in St Vincent

Cert 12a | ★★★☆☆

It isn’t clear whether those rumours of Bill Murray turning up randomly at house parties are true. But on this evidence, you probably wouldn’t want him to crash yours.
In St Vincent, Murray reconfigures his surly persona to play Vincent MacKenna, a feckless drunk and reckless gambler who’s struggling to keep a grip on his cheerless life. He seems determined to alienate everyone but his equally crabby pet cat.
But when single mum Maggie and her twelve-year-old kid Oliver move in next door, Vincent strikes up an unlikely father-son relationship with the latter, and things begin to pick up.

The two have some Big Life Lessons to learn before the end credits roll; we the audience, however, don’t get anything new. St Vincent hews too closely to the tropes of the mismatched buddy caper to really stand out. In a perfect demonstration of Newtonian determinism, each plot point seems to follow predictably from everything that’s come before it, and the whole is served with heaps of sentimentality. This is writer-director Theodore Melfi’s first feature, and it shows in the story’s flabbiness: several characters here are redundant – notably Naomi Watts’s brash hooker, who’s given a pointless Russian accent but no good lines to use it on.
And yet, this is a likeable film. Instead of originality, there’s great warmth and a stamp of authenticity (the premise is based on Melfi’s own experiences). Melissa McCarthy is splendid as Maggie, and the script packs in some great one-liners. At the centre of it all is Murray, who plays Vincent with the winning mix of irony and candour that he brings to all his roles. His fans could watch him peel carrots for two hours and leave happy; by the end of St Vincent, they’ll be beaming.

CRITICS’ CHOICE: FILM

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Sweet, penguin-based Christmassy fun from the people who brought you the Madagascar films
Interstellar ★★★☆☆
It doesn’t wear its ambition lightly but there’s no denying it’s an unforgettable sci-fi spectacle
The Homesman ★★★★★
Tommy Lee Jones directs and acts in this epic Western with a twist. Hilary Swank is sensational
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A brilliantly bruising crime drama starring Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini

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