Can we just give Bill Murray an Oscar already so he can get back to the important projects, you know, like making a sequel to What about Bob.
“St. Vincent” is the story of an aging crank whose life is changed when he has to start watching a kid who moves in next door. Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of the kid’s overworked single mom and Bill Murray slides easily into the part of the cranky old neighbor whose life choices seem to all be on the wrong side of wisdom. It’s only through an odd friendship with this neighbor boy that Vincent starts the trek from sinner to saint. That’s right, it’s the old curmudgeon gets softened up by a neighbor kid routine, but this movie has one thing that the many that have come before it don’t, Bill Murray. And that ain’t a bad thing.
Murray is stunning in this. His take on the old man set in his unhealthy ways is captivating in its dedication and wonderful in it’s humor and heart. It really is a great piece for him to chew on and you get the sense while watching that he is flat out in the zone with this role. Somehow even as he gambles, drinks, and “dates” a pregnant stripper (a scene stealing performance by Naomi Watts by the way) and all with a 12 year old kid in tow, we’re still able to see through the boys eyes that somewhere in there is a good hearted man who is just making bad choices. And it’s Murray that makes it possible by somehow remaining lovable even as messed up as his choices are. But his isn’t the only great performance, Naomi Watts, as mentioned, is great, as is Chris O’Dowd, and even the kid at the center of it plays his role really well. But in my opinion, the best thing about the movie may be Melissa McCarthy and the way she is used. Just 3 months ago as she was playing “Tammy” I was lamenting that McCarthy wasn’t given enough chance to really let her pure acting skills shine. And here, as if by request, she is given a powerful role that doesn’t rely on cheap slap stick to make you laugh. She is absolutely wonderful in this, and her heartfelt struggle to provide for her son amidst a tough situation is a major reason the emotion of the movie works and doesn’t feel like warmed over cliche.
Which would have been a very easy trap to fall into by the way. This really is the same old story. Since the dawn of cinema old men have been yelling “You kids get off my lawn”, and there always seems to be some young rascal that just can’t help but break through and warm the geezer’s old heart. And if the movie loses points it’s in the fact that it doesn’t really do too much new with the formula, choosing rather to let it’s performers hold it above the triteness lingering underneath. And though that strategy seems to work for the most part, it still would have been nice to see something creative and new in the structure or story. I also thought even though the emotion worked, there wasn’t much redemption to the characters, leaving us just short of really feeling the full effect.
Overall, St. Vincent is a pleasant watch of a movie we have seen many versions of many time before. Yet, because of the performances of especially Murray and McCarthy this movie is able to register as a bit more saint than sinner, with a respectable B.