Published on December 5th, 2014 | by Allan Brown2
St Vincent Review
Movie Review: St Vincent (2014)
Running Time: 102 mins
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher
When Maggie (fresh foot into a troublesome divorce) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in directly next door to the neighbourhood grump and all round cynical sulk; Vincent (Bill Murray), things look like they couldn’t get any worse. As single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) struggles to re-adjust her life whilst juggling a demanding hospital job, refuge comes from the most unlucky of places, as Vincent agrees – reluctantly – to serve as a cash-in-hand baby-sitter, while Maggie works the late shift. This of course leads to mischief, mayhem and other worldly life lessons, but more poignantly, this gives birth to an unexpected and heart-warming friendship that gives the old man a reason to live and believe in himself again.
The story here is far from original, indeed, the grumpy old man who finds purpose and meaning through the love of a young child is a story the has been peddled since the beginning of time. However, despite the story being ladled with an unmistakeable sense of déjà vu, it is in its lead cast and its snappy well written dialogue that the film owes its debt and indeed, its success too. Like Jack Nicolson in As Good As It Gets, Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men and Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, the part of Vincent feels like it could have been written in the stars for Bill Murray, and he relishes every second on screen.
With that said, there are more colours to Vincent’s spectrum than may first meets the eye. Sure, the comedic splashes are perfectly suited to Murray’s palate and he executes them to perfection, but as the layers of this prickly characters begin to be peeled back, subtle glimpses of warmth and kindness are exposed, and it is then that the character truly comes to life.
His character feels real, he is not bolted down or restraint by a collection of one dimensional characteristics so common to such characters.
His character feels real, he is not bolted down or restraint by a collection of one dimensional characteristics so common to such characters. He swings from naughty uncle to caring parent and back again so naturally, and all executed with such skill and ease as we watch Vincent grow before our very eyes, in what must be one of Bill Murray’s strongest performances to date.
The supporting cast all do an honest job, Melissa McCarthy plays against type, unselfishly taking the backseat as Oliver’s mum. This shows incredible restraint for someone who is famed for being an all-out leading comedy actress. Naomi Watts plays Daka, a Russian stripper. Her role perhaps comes across a little too generic at times, and her performance often bordering on hammy. However, despite these supporting roles feeling rather empty of any weight or substance, it must be said, these characters are simply conduits or vehicles in allowing the character arc and transformation of Vincent, and for that to happen, all offer perfect performances for such a transition. While praise is certainly worthy for Murray’s impressive turn, without young Jaeden Lieberher in the equally pivotal role as Oliver, the film would have fallen flat.
One of the most heart-warming comedies of the year
Like Haley Joel Osment, Elijah Wood and Jodie Foster, every once in a while there comes an astounding child actors who captivates a generation with an unforgettable screen presence. Here, Lieberher is charming, articulate, subtle and emotive and his portrayal of Oliver is registered with utter authenticity. For me; Jaeden Lieberher may just be the next one to watch.
In the end, St Vincent finds its place somewhere between Little Miss Sunshine, As Good as it Gets and Gran Torino, and although not the balls out comedy some might be expecting, it does offers enough laughs, emotion and charm to make it one of the most heart-warming comedies of the year.
Summary: Despite St Vincent covering familiar territory, it's two perfectly harmonised lead performances, astute direction and punchy dialogue more than makes it worth the trip, elevating the film into something quite special.