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Rob Edelman: Saint Bill Murray

Tis the season to celebrate Bill Murray, that enduringly popular and, yes, beloved SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alumnus who in recent years has morphed into a top-of-the-line movie star. Murray’s singular presence uplifts and makes special his latest film, ST. VINCENT, in which he plays a smart-mouthed, alcohol-loving scallywag who resides in Brooklyn (which these days has replaced Manhattan as the hip New York City locale). The core of the story involves what happens when Vincent becomes the unlikely mentor to a pre-teen boy whose mother is divorced and who is in desperate need of a role model.

On the surface, of course, Vincent is no saint. Yet despite his flaws, he still has his endearing side. If he didn’t, well, he never could be labeled a saint. And in an era in which too many films that focus on the travails of young people feature adult characters who are stereotypical, one-dimensionally irresponsible louts-- even though they are parents, grandparents, or teachers-- ST. VINCENT is a welcome crowd-pleaser.

The film also features some A-list performers giving A-list performances. For starters, Melissa McCarthy plays the boy’s mother and, for once, she is cast as a character who is more human being than stout, obnoxiously foul-mouthed caricature. But still, ST. VINCENT is Bill Murray’s film and, throughout, he is a delight.

Back in September, ST. VINCENT had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. The fest not only screened the film but honored its star by setting aside one Friday and dubbing it “Bill Murray Day.” In addition to ST. VINCENT, the Murray films GHOSTBUSTERS, STRIPES, and GROUNDHOG DAY were shown-- and a good time was had by all. Indeed, if you walked the streets of the city on “Bill Murray Day,” you could spy countless fans garbed in costumes from a host of Bill Murray films.

One explanation for Murray’s appeal is that his characters never appear to be viewing the world with any sort of gravity. You can watch him onscreen and only wish that you could embrace his to-heck-with-it-all worldview. And this worldview is one that the actor seems to have embraced off-screen. The Illinois native is known to be a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. Once upon a time, the Cubbies were the first major league nine to win two consecutive World Series, but the catch is that these victories came way back in 1907 and 1908. The team has not copped a Fall Classic since.

At the festival, I got to briefly chat with Murray and I asked him when his Cubbies will win the World Series. Instead of a detailed response, which one might expect from a sports fan-atic, Murray uttered just three words. “In two years,” was his straight-faced reply.

What a baseball fan! What a singular talent! What a guy!

Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.


 The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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