Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Release Date: October 17th, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Theodore Melfi Actors: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher, Kimberly Quinn
t. Vincent” opens with a funny, clean joke that sets the tone but contrasts the edge of the darkly humorous ordeals in this semi-independent production, which gives Bill Murray a chance to once again fall into a fitting role that seems very much like he’s playing himself (but with a slightly exaggerated deportment). The memorable one-liner segues into elderly Brooklyn man Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) having sex with pregnant prostitute Daka Parimova (Naomi Watts) before heading to the bank to negotiate the terms of his reverse mortgage. He’s bitter, belligerent, and crass. He also smokes, drinks, gambles, can’t stay out of debt, and lives alone with his cat Felix.
After driving home inebriated one night and accidentally injuring himself with a hammer before banging his head against the kitchen cabinets, Vincent wakes the following morning in a pool of his own blood. Irritably stumbling out onto his porch, he’s introduced to new neighbor Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy) clamorously moving in next door. She’s a single mother fleeing her cheating husband (Scott Adsit) before he can inevitably use his legal connections and knowledge to regain custody of their son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Although Vince has no interest in conversing with the woman (“I don’t need to hear the whole story”) or meeting the child, he quickly becomes a babysitter, intent on collecting $12 per hour as he irresponsibly carts the boy from the Mr. Wedge strip club to the horse track and finally to a bar, all while Maggie works long hours at the hospital, unaware of her son’s inappropriate extracurricular activities.
As a tale of a most unlikely mentor (or a role model that requires some heavy polishing before receiving such a definition) tutoring a strikingly opposite apprentice, “St. Vincent” is a resounding success. Poignant material is surrounded by grumpiness, insensitivity, and a tormented soul crying out for redemption as the film draws parallels (some more subtle than others) to angels and saints, odd couple pairings, Abbott and Costello, and surrogate father influences. A bit of revenge fantasy (like a comedic “Gran Torino”) and ample amounts of humor balance out the tragedy, which routinely arises from repetitiously poor decision-making, grief, and regret. But despite plenty of predicaments, the subject matter is genuine and moving.
Oliver is unusually intelligent, polite, and well adjusted, peculiarly cognizant of the unfairness of his scrawniness and the childhood bullying he attracts. Lieberher’s performance is perfect against Murray’s misanthropic churl, while McCarthy has a rare opportunity to impart warmth and heart as a relatable, realistic parent struggling to make ends meet – sure to impress even moviegoers who tend to avoid her comedies. Even Watts dons a Russian accent and embodies an atypical persona. There’s a notable and welcome depth to the players that is unexpected from this assemblage and premise. And though the film is a touch overlong and formulaically manipulative at times, the characters are consistently amusing and the intent is a crowd-pleasing, feel-good event that is bound to win over audiences, even if they weren’t expecting so much drama amidst classic Bill Murray wisecracks.
– Mike Massie