Friday, May 24, 2024

Toronto: Bill Murray Gets a Huge Deserved Standing Ovation for “St. Vincent”


After a very good screening for “Boychoir” with Dustin Hoffman– a lovely “Mr. Holland’s Opus” meets “Dead Poets Society” — and more on that later– the Toronto crowd braved pouring rain and headed over to Princess of Wales Theater for Theodore Melfi’s “St. Vincent.”

Bill Murray got such a thunderous standing ovation last night after the premiere of “St. Vincent” that he was still dazed and a little teary at the after party following at Patria (sponsored by Hudson Bay).

“St. Vincent” is evidently Harvey Weinstein’s surprise movie of the season, a “Silver Linings Playbook” style character study that is brilliant, weepy, poignant and unexpected. Bill Murray may actually win his Oscar at last for playing this sort of oddball outsider with a heart of gold because he manages to keep it from being saccharine. It’s Murray at his most endearing, sort of picking up signals from outer space while at the same communicating them to those around him warmly. Vincent may actually be the human version of “ET.”

Murray is totally aided in this effort by an exceptional cast starting with an 11 year old boy named Oliver played by Jaeden Lieberher who does his best to steal the movie from Murray but can’t quite. (We’ll see Jaeden next in Cameron Crowe’s new film.) But there are also Naomi Watts as Vincent’s paid Russian lady friend, Melissa McCarthy as Oliver’s mom, Chris O’Dowd as Oliver’s teacher and the local priest, and a talented group of New York actors in various other roles.

The movie is from first time film director Melfi, who’s done a lot of commercials. He is as sure with “St. Vincent” as a veteran. That he got this shot is a real tribute to Harvey Weinstein, who “got” this whole thing and went for it. Everyone in the press thought “Imitation Game” was Harvey’s Oscar card this season. Wrong! A nice surprise.

Bill Murray marches to his own drummer. They had “Bill Murray Day” here yesterday as a gimmick just to keep him interested in what’s going on. At the brief Q&A he joked that he only got the part “because they couldn’t get Jack Nicholson.” He asked, from the stage, “Where are we?” until audience members shouted back “Toronto.” It’s a role he’s assumed, and it’s a little real. But he knows what he’s doing. And now he’s got a good shot at his most major success.

At the party: “Mad Men” and “ER” star Linda Cardelini, who told me she became buddies with Bill because he just called her up one day to say how much he liked her. She’s here with “Welcome to Me,” which also stars Kristin Wiig– she was at the party, too, along with Josh Charles and a host of other actors who partied through the wet wet night.

PS Maybe they let that crazy mayor Rob Ford run this city after all. All the streets are blocked off around the film festival, traffic is a mess and access is impossible. Only Rob Ford could have thought of this. Being in Toronto is a frustrating experience. They’ve brought passive aggressive inconvenience to a high art!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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