Words: Rob DeStefano

st vincent

St. Vincent (2014)

It’s time again to refill the Hamptons with some of that money that left with Summer. Locals continue to retreat once more, as film enthusiasts steal all parking from Westhampton to Montauk, for the 22nd annual time. Hamptons International Film Festival 2014 will serve up Fall’s hotly anticipated indies, titles bound for year end Oscar discussion, and smaller gems from around the world. There are director and performer panels, and if hearing from a man like Joel Schumacher (responsible for classics like The Lost Boys… and Batman & Robin) isn’t on your bucket list, then you can gorge on Rowdy Hall’s brunch. Past openings included Jeff Who Lives at Home and Kill Your Darlings; this year they decidedly went wider with St. Vincent. David Nugent, the festival’s artistic director, introduced St. Vincent with unbridled enthusiasm, claiming that when he found it at Toronto, it turned his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day into a spectacular one. To each his own.

Look away, there’s nothing to see here. Think 10% Gran Torino with 90% Bad Santa, and without nearly all their positive attributes. Bill Murray is Vince, a seemingly morose drunk who spends his days tending to his Alzheimer’s inflicted and facility confined wife, and having sex with a pregnant prostitute, played, for god knows what deranged reason, by the usually remarkable Naomi Watts. A wimpish kid, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), moves in next door, and since his single mother (Melissa McCarthy) works 24 hours a day – damn the health care system! – Murray starts babysitting/imparting twisted wisdom.

First time feature director Theodore Melfi and screenwriter Theodore Melfi are clearly preoccupied with targeting the most deliciously fermented batch of cliches, right down to the rousing, all inspiring speech projected from an eleven-year-old, bound to change the UN at age fifteen, I’m sure. While Murray drifts in and out of a pointless Brooklyn accent, and Watts cakes on this Polish persona, and McCarthy cries (over and over again), Lieberher is the most consistent part of St. Vincent. He gives such a confident performance for a young actor, and I found his deliveries and facial expressions to be the funniest of the well seasoned cast. I’m not giving the dynamics between Lieberher and Murray enough credit, because at times they are enjoyable, but Vince is distractingly archetypical that, as viewers, it’s hard to care about anyone’s plight here. It doesn’t help that the movie diverges frequently into subplots; Terrance Howard even finds his way onto the set as a dangerous bookie.

For a movie that is so predictable, the final act does become fairly strange – in a way that makes its preceding runtime even worse. Let’s just say there is a fascination with stroke victim humor and the mentally impaired. Vince tells Oliver that high risks can land high rewards. I don’t know what level of risk this movie was, but the reward is worthless.

[Day 2 notes will include Nightcrawler, Elephant Song, All American High Revisited, and Breathe]

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