A Welcome Escape

St. Vincent & Pride

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            As time and responsibilities engulf us in December, here are two movies that promise two hours of escape. One American, one British, each will deliver you from chaos and leave you with a smile.
            St. Vincent – Bill Murray is a Vietnam vet, a grumpy drunk who lives in the mess he has made of his house when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves next door with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). After Maggie hires the sloppy old guy to take care of Oliver while she works, we watch Vincent and Oliver spend their days in bars, at the track, and at Daka’s strip club (Naomi Watts, grand as a Russian stripper).
            Watching friendship grow between the old crank and the 12 year old is shot through with humor and our growing affection for them. Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher never sentimentalize their roles. This young boy is quiet, serious, smart, and observant – never just cute - and he’s a real match for his irresponsible caretaker.
            Vincent’s visits to the local retirement home to visit an elderly woman are the only hint that he may have had an earlier life. Naomi Watts’ Russian accent sends ripples of laughter through the audience each time she appears. As we watch a group of nutsos becoming a most unlikely family, audience appreciation is contagious. Look forward with great anticipation to the school assignment that requires Oliver to write an essay about a Saint.
            Pride is a fine surprise. With the strong roots of a true story, it takes on a serious subject that explores acceptance as an overarching cultural value. Writer/director Matthew Warchus injects irony and humanity into his script and hands it to a cast that delivers in high style.
            In the summer of 1984, an unrelenting Margaret Thatcher is in power when the National Union of Mineworkers goes on strike. When a group of gay and lesbian activists offers working support to the strikers, they are turned away by an antagonistic union. Refusing to give up, they decide their only route is to go directly to a small village in Wales with their offer of raising money to help the miners’ families. Steady in the face of insults and determined to help, they stay put in their drive for respect and acceptance.
            The miners, gays, and lesbians manage to inject humor into the emotional tussle that swings back and forth between anger and appreciation. The story is chock full of eccentric characters who make us laugh just when we are touched by their efforts. Together, they try to show us what can be accomplished when good intentions erase natural suspicion under the banner of a higher cause.
            Though these two very good movies are thoroughly different, one from the other, both boast skilled actors who will deliver you for a couple of hours from everything else on your mind during this period so infamously and oddly referred to as “The Holidays.”


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : St. Vincent & Pride
Word count : 493
Studio : The Weinstein Company
Running time : 1:42 & 2:00
Rating : PG-13 & R


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