This is what dark comedy does — it takes sad situations (impoverishment, alcoholism, horse racing, Naomi Watts doing a really bad accent while also sporting an obviously fake baby bump), and plays them up until they make us laugh, not cry. Ted Melfi‘s St. Vincent looks to be aiming a little to the left of the dramedy mark (in directional comedy speak, that means he’s going a bit too funny with this one) with his debut film, St. Vincent, but at least he’s somewhat in range.
The film stars Bill Murray as a character clearly pitched as “what if Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino was actually kinda kicky?” who finds his life turned upside down with the arrival of a new neighbors — sad Melissa McCarthy (is it horrible to comment on how it’s nice to see McCarthy going for just a little bit of pathos for once?) and her very cute son Oliver (newbie Jaeden Lieberher, who looks to be quite charming) into the house next door. Their first introduction isn’t too fun, though, there’s some blood and a big tree limb and lots of confusion, but things change when Murray’s Vincent and Oliver start hanging out together. The twist is, of course, that Vincent doesn’t mix up his all-drinking, all-hemming and hawing, all-horse racing routine once he starts hanging out with the tween. Oopsie.
Take a look at the film’s first trailer, which is both very sweet and very clearly trying to be quirky. It’s like Royal Tenenbaum went to California and never looked back.
This is how the young people learn — by watching Bill Murray slip into social situations and by mowing dirt.
The film also features Chris O’Dowd as a sweet-faced priest at Oliver’s brand-new Catholic school (Oliver is Jewish! quirky twist!) and Naomi Watts as someone who watched Kaitlin Olson’s performance in The Heat so closely that she forgot that she’s been nominated for two entire Oscars. The mirth, it is thick. Still, Murray and Lieberher look like they’re having a hell of a time together, and considering that it’s everyone’s dearest wish (yes, everyone’s) to hang out with Murray on the regular, even this quirkfest is rooted in reality.
Melfi’s film was originally titled St. Vincent of Van Nuys, and while I’ve only been to Van Nuys once, it didn’t much look like this — though I have little doubt that Murray, the master of randomly showing up anywhere and everywhere, could probably be conjured up into the SoCal city at any point and time. It’s Suntory time all over again.
St. Vincent opens on October 24th. [Yahoo! Movies]