3 1/2 StarsSt. Vincent is the first truly good film I’ve seen this winter. This time of year OSCAR hopefuls are unveiled every weekend leading up to the new year. A number of those so-called important films have been disappointments, now we have the crotchety screen veteran Bill Murray to save the season. St. Vincent is predictable to be sure, but there are many comedic delights and dramatic events unfolding to keep the film on-track.
Murray is Vincent a self-involved drunk with little regard for his own health or the feelings of those around him. His behavior has run off anyone who once cared for him, and the drinking has gotten so bad that nightly falls are expected. Awaking on the kitchen floor, blooded and hung over, Vin witnesses a moving truck cause damage to his dilapidated station wagon. This minor incident turns explosive as the cankerous Vincent berates his new neighbors, a single mom (McCarthy) and her young son,Oliver. Melissa McCarthy plays the mother and her subdued turn is one of the film’s biggest delights. I’ve never been a fan of her comedic stylings, but she is positively radiant in this role. Equally fine is the work from newcomer Jaeden Lieberher, this extremely likable kid is a natural foil to Murray’s verbal antics.
Nearly broke, Vincent heads to the track in order to make quick money. His usual unlucky streak continues and things get even worse when he runs into a bookie (Terrence Howard) with an outstanding marker. Looking for some cash and seeing an opportunity, Vincent agrees to babysit Oliver everyday after school. Maggie is weary but her long hours working at the hospital leave her little choice. Thus begins the relationship between the boy and the over-grown man-child. Their pinocchio-like adventures take them into the dark den of bars Vincent frequents and into the company of a pregnant hooker (Naomi Watts).
St. Vincent is definitely a paint-by-the-numbers affair when considering the clichés in writer/director Theodore Melfi’s screenplay. The story has a number of distracting subplots that are left with more than a few loose ends. However, by casting talented actors down the line, he has insured himself against the material. The entire cast is uniformly strong, yet it is Murray who once again delivers a mischievous, beguiling and heartfelt performance as the title character.
Director: Theodore Melfi
Stars: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Naomi Watts