St. Ruin Your Day with Drama

Bill Murray is a bit of a louse – in St. Vincent anyway. It’s actually difficult to see Murray, effortlessly funny and cheery as he appears in public, stumbling about drunkenly and sarcastically snapping at his new neighbors. His performance is tops though.

St. Vincent happens to be a sweet movie, a smile maker if you must. And then it’s not. People die. Guns are shown. Custody is lost. It becomes a non-stop slaughter of all that is happy. No wonder Murray’s Vincent is so bitter.

Through the still fresh, optimistic kid Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), there is some good left in St. Vincent’s world. Although dealing with a litany of problems at home and a new school, Oliver has a dry pep about him. His necessary meeting with Vincent – Oliver’s mom has to work after school, Vincent needs the babysitting money – can only go one direction. There are montages and speeches, anti-bullying sessions and philosophizing, with ice cream and cat rearing on the side. Such films are just predictable. An unorthodox coupling such as this only ends in friendship.

Except when it chooses not to. St. Vincent’s detour isn’t any clever bending of these cinema cliches. They’re shocks. The film’s characters are well textured (even bit-parts) so early it’s clear Vincent isn’t an angry, chain smoking old man without reason. But, these scenarios are unusually cold and depressingly dark. Some situations are left unsolved. St. Vincent tries to leave care free, ignoring the reality hanging over Vincent’s future.

It’s nice and pleasant – albeit with a mean streak.

In its own way, St. Vincent wants to teach audiences how to act toward one another. You don’t know everyone’s secrets. Vincent uses expletives; Oliver always responds politely with “sir.” Different as they are, they figure it out. So should everyone else.

Certainly, the film earns sympathies. The switch into thick drama is done without provocation, making key characters feel guilty about their treatment toward one another. Their personal issues have overstepped boundaries and affected others. St. Vincent’s dramatic uprising is all based on the interconnected foul ups of this selected group of people forced together for the sake of one another. It’s nice and pleasant – albeit with a mean streak.

Murray himself is staggering. Stunning, even. The Golden Globes loved him, the Academy didn’t. In lesser years, Murray had a shot at both. Newcomer Jaeden Lieberher is on point, and Melissa McCarthy shows how comfortable she is outside of her egregious typecasting. Naomi Watts can be forgiven for the thick accent.

So the pieces are there. Yet, even as people connect, St. Vincent pushes its audience away. Much of it feels without reason. The film piles on. Those brief interludes of comedy are a welcome reprieve. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Stand off @ 1:22:17

Fox’s encode is dealing with a film-based source, remaining consistent for most of its runtime. Grain management is excellent, delivering no visible compression problems or anomalies. While a handful of scenes appear impacted by seemingly random edge enhancement, St. Vincent is generally well manicured in its digital transition.

Carrying a cheery palette designed for a mild comedy, flesh tones receive a boost of warmth. Primaries are pure with satisfying brightness. Contrast often excels, even in Vincent’s dimmer home. Enough light comes through his shades. Black levels are not often called for their full strength, but add some depth to a handful of nighttime scenes.

St. Vincent’s selling point is definitely fine detail. Longtime cinematographer John Lindley’s work is rarely adventurous with focus, keeping images dazzling in their sharpness. Close-ups are superb. Facial definition is outstanding, and exteriors display plenty of detail, necessary to juxtapose Murray’s on-screen home from McCarthy’s. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

A soundtrack of ’60s and ’70s hits is certainly a vibrant part of this audio mix, cranked up a few notches to make these songs shine. Their clarity is flawless. Songs surround and fill the speakers as needed. It’s the most notable part of St. Vincent.

There are opportunities elsewhere. The race track manages to work the horses into the LFE as they pass with a crowd cheering as needed in the rears. A strip club hosts some ambiance too. Otherwise, this DTS-HD mix is acceptable but pedestrian. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Twelve deleted scenes fill in some minor character details and host a few gags. They’re smart cuts though. Bill Murray as St. Vincent is a collection of clips from a panel following the film’s premiere after a screening of Ghostbusters with Murray taking questions. It would be nice if this wasn’t cut between clips of the movie and instead focused on the speakers. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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