I’ve got to be honest. It seems like each time I watch a film featuring Bill Murray, I glance around the theater with a small ounce of hope that, just maybe, he will coincidently be in the same city as me watching his own film with a big bucket of popcorn and a large slurpie. It’s just the whimsy of who he is. With legendary stories of either myth or folklore about his uncanny social outings in mind, I sat in a nearly empty theater with high expectations for St. Vincent, the highly anticipated film of the Toronto International Film Festival. Bill Murray’s character has you on an emotional teeter-totter, with the lows of grumpiness and the highs of selfless acts of service to those who matter most as he babysits his neighbors’ 12-year old son, Oliver. Jaeden Lieberher takes the cake, emerging as a fabulous young actor in the rankings of Beasts of the Southern Wild superstar Quvenzhané Wallis, starring in the upcoming re-release of Annie. Lieberher artistically stays in character through the entire film, in a variety of scenarios and storylines, relying on true acting talent rather than the standard procedure of being cute or obscene. His gentle kindness behind every “yes sir” is a witty contrast of Murray’s apparent disinterested demeanor. Melissa McCarthy steps out of slapstick humor and into the straight and narrow as a struggling mother looking for a break.
St. Vincent is basic, but in the right way. It isn’t going to leave you rolling off your seat in laughter and the cinematography is far from the spectacle seen in a Wes Anderson/ Murray combination; but plan on feeling soft and sentimental, unlike many of Murray’s premiere performances. The relationship between young and old is nothing new in film, but this duo turns a predictable story into a dynamic cinematic experience. And be sure to stick it out through the credits; an extended scene of Murray in his back yard provided some of my favorite cinematography of the entire film.
Watch a short teaser of the closing scene with BIll Murray gracefully singing to Bob Dylan.
My favorite interview with Jaeden Lieberher on what it’s like to work with Bill Murray can be read here.