Ashvegas Movie Review: St. Vincent
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.
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St. Vincent is predictable, hokey, sentimental and silly. You’ll love it.
It’s not just because St. Vincent marks Bill Murray’s return to full-out movie lead. It’s because with all its faults, the darn thing is super feel-good. When you leave the theatre after St. Vincent, you’re smiling and feeling glad you just spent 100- some minutes inside a sunless auditorium.
Vincent (Bill Murray) is a 60-something slob, a drunk, a gambler, a grouch, and a scam artist. And that’s on a good day. He lives alone in a small, dirty house in lower-class Brooklyn, where all the yards are as big as postage stamps. Occasionally a vibrant Russian hooker, Daka (Naomi Watts) comes by to ply her trade with Vincent. She’s pregnant but nobody knows who the father is – Vincent perhaps? Stalking Vincent like an ugly shadow is Zucko (Terence Howard), who keeps demanding the money Vincent owes him.
The new neighbors are falling-to-pieces new single mom, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), an insecure 11-year-old runt who also happens to be wonderfully polite and smart. Maggie has just started a job as a medical tech in a nearby hospital. Oliver goes to the local Catholic school, which is hard enough for any new kid, but especially so for Oliver who thinks he might be Jewish. His teacher, a kindly Irishman named Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd), uses wit and compassion to tame his unruly charges. Convinced that real saints—people who do great things for other people—are alive and well in today’s world, Brother Geraghty gives the class an assignment to research and give reports on saints they know.
Meantime, the devil seems to be at work. Desperate for a baby-sitter for Oliver, Maggie reluctantly hires Vincent. He hates the kid but wants the money so he agrees. Of course, in time, the two of them bond. Riding in Vincent’s old convertible, dancing in the local saloon, and playing the horses at the race track, Vincent gives Oliver the life lessons that fathers should give their sons, even if such instructions might give mothers a heart attack.
Complications happen of course, as they do with Jewish boys in Catholic schools and old men who carry a lot of secrets, not to mention pregnant prostitutes.
There are no surprises in St. Vincent. What’s lovely about it is the way the characters find their way to all the predetermined plot points that first-time writer/director Theodore Melfi has carefully choreographed.. It’s heartening to see Bill Murray do his crabby curmudgeon thing, being poignant one minute and hilarious the next and always with an irrepressible humanity. Melissa McCarthy, thank goodness, is low-key and thus quite enjoyable. Naomi Watts has been criticized for her Natasha-accent – so what? She’s warm and lovely and it doesn’t matter if she sounds like a cartoon.
The most surprising portrayal is the one from young Lieberher. He’s not precocious or disgustingly cute. He’ s knobby-kneed and real and while he doesn’t steal the scenes from Bill Murray, he is a phenomenally good supporting player. We’ll hear more from this young man.
Marcianne Miller is a member of SEFCA (Southeast Film Critics Assn.) and NCFCA (North Carolina Film Critics Assn.) Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.