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Saint Be Praised

Bill Murray earns his wings in St. Vincent

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Bill Murray had been crying. He was wiping at his eyes when the lights came up after the world premiere of St. Vincent at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 5. Murray wasn't the only one: Nearly everyone at the screening had shed a few--mostly happy--tears

"I hadn't seen the movie before then," Murray later told Boise Weekly. "It caught me by surprise."

So it is with St. Vincent. On paper, St. Vincent's storyline is another adorable-kid vs. grumpy-old-man yarn. But there's a reason we watch movies rather than read scripts; and the best reason is Murray.; he turns average material (Get Low, Broken Flowers) into good material and good material into icons (Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day).

It came as no surprise that a new holiday happened during TIFF 2014: Sept. 5 is now Bill Murray Day. Bill Murray Day saw TIFF swing its doors open for all-day free screenings of Murray's best. Fans waited in a steady rainstorm for hours to relive some of their favorite Murray memories, and as day became night, fans had one more memory: St. Vincent, perhaps Murray's best work and closest bet to grab another Oscar nomination (his first was 2003's Lost in Translation). Hundreds of fans squeezed into the world premiere screening of St. Vincent and were rewarded when Murray, co-stars and writer-director Theodore Melfi stepped on stage to soak in an ovation from the soaked-to-the-skin crowd.

"I think Bill finds what Bill is supposed to do," said Melfi, talking about Murray's far-from-typical acting method. "It's well documented."

Murray didn't miss a beat, adding.,"Ted Melfi couldn't get Jack Nicholson for the part. It's well documented." The moment was hilarious; but in truth, the only adequate comparison to Murray's St. Vincent is Nicholson's Oscar-winning performance in As Good As It Gets.

There are so many more reasons to worship St. Vincent, including 12-year-old Jaeden Lieberher, a wonderfully natural talent, as next-door-neighbor Oliver, who helps polish Vincent's (Murray) halo, and Melissa McCarthy as Oliver's mom in a smartly dialed-down performance. Also in the near-perfect cast are the always-great Chris O'Dowd as Oliver's priest/teacher and Naomi Watts as Vincent's pregnant stripper/girlfriend/housekeeper (Oh, hell. She's a prostitute).

You'll notice I shared little about St. Vincent's plot or surprises, of which there are many. That's because of how much I love this film and how much I want you to see Murray's finest 102 minutes to date. I will tell you this: Take some tissues.

Related Film

St. Vincent

Official Site: stvincent-movie.com

Director: Theodore Melfi

Producer: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Theodore Melfi, Fred Roos, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Dylan Sellars, Don Cheadle and G. Mac Brown

Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Jaeden Lieberher, Terrence Howard, Kimberly Quinn, Donna Mitchell, Nate Corddry, Dario Barosso, Ann Dowd and Scott Adsit