Greetings again from the darkness. Moments after Bill Murray's Vincent
cracks a rare on screen "Chico and the Man" reference, we get our first
glimpse of scrawny Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher), and we
immediately know where this story is headed. The fact that we never
lose interest is thanks to Mr. Murray, the rest of the cast and
writer/director Theodore Melfi (his first feature film).
Though this is ultra-predictable and even strains credulity, we nonetheless connect to Murray's Vincent - a grumpy, drunken, slobby, chain-smoker who has a bond with a pregnant Russian prostitute/stripper. Melissa McCarthy plays Oliver's mom Maggie, who has separated from her philandering husband, and is intent on making a life for her son. It's here where it should be noted that Ms. McCarthy plays the role mostly straight - none of her usual funny-fat moments. Instead, she excels in a scene with an emotional dump on Oliver's principal and teacher (a standout Chris O'Dowd).
Surprisingly, this could even be described as a message movie. Vincent quickly notices that Oliver is lacking street smarts and sets out to correct this. The story reminds us that all people are multi-faceted. The good have their rough edges, and the "bad" likely have a back-story and some redeeming value. Vincent is so cantankerous that it takes a kid as appealing as Oliver to balance the story. Even knowing a feel good ending is coming, we as viewers don't mind being dragged through the sap.
Murray is outstanding, and if the script had a bit more heft, he would probably garner some Oscar consideration. McCarthy deserves notice for going against type, and Naomi Watts flashes some real comedic timing (maybe the biggest surprise of all). O'Dowd has some of the best one-liners in the film, and shows again that he is immensely talented. Terrence Howard seems a bit out of place as a loan shark, but he has limited screen time, as does Ann Dowd as the nursing home director.
Prepare for the feel-bad-then-good ride, culminating in a school auditorium event that reunites the key characters, and allows the child actor to draw a tear or two from the audience. Good times that end with classic Murray over the closing credits.
Action / Comedy / Drama
Action / Comedy / Drama
Vincent is an old Vietnam vet whose stubbornly hedonistic ways have left him without money or a future. Things change when his new next-door neighbor's son, Oliver, needs a babysitter and Vince is willing enough for a fee. From that self-serving act, an unexpected friendship forms as Vincent and Oliver find so much of each other's needs through each other. As Vincent mentors Oliver in street survival and other worldly ways, Oliver begins to see more in the old man than just his foibles. When life takes a turn for the worse for Vincent, both them find the best in each other than no one around them suspects.
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January 24, 2015 at 01:06 PM