Review: St. Vincent

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St. Vincent

By the time St. Vincent draws to a close, you'll probably feel emotionally manipulated. You will have certainly realized that you've seen this story what feels like a million times before. If you're super nitpicky, you might even be inclined to make a list of films in the same vein that you like better (About A Boy and Rushmore immediately spring to mind). Unless you are as curmudgeonly as Vincent (Bill Murray) in this motion picture, I am betting you'll still find yourself giving in to this movie no matter how hard you resist. 

As Vincent's new neighbor Maggie, Melissa McCarthy turns in a surprisingly subdued performance as a single mother struggling to keep things afloat for her her 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher in an outstanding debut). Things get off to a very rocky start and they don't get much better when Oliver gets locked out of his new home on the first day of school and Maggie has to convince Vincent over the phone to babysit him until she can get off work. As the grumpiest of grumpy old men, it's not a task Vincent is well suited for, but he could use the money so he reluctantly agrees. 

Of course, their unlikely friendship blossoms in the most predictable ways, but it always felt more charming than cloying to me. Murray takes a character that in somebody else's hands could have been very one note and presents us with a multidimensional man who can't be pinned down. We get a glimpse into his joy and his pain, which allows us to forgive some of the more ridiculous aspects of the story and just enjoy the ride. The supporting cast includes Chris O'Dowd as a casually Catholic teacher and Naomi Watts (with a truly bad accent) as a pregnant Russian prostitute who has a standing weekly visit with Vincent.

St. Vincent is the directorial debut of Theodore Melfi, who also wrote the screenplay. Thanks in large part to the terrific actors involved and crowd-pleasing story arc, it feels like the Weinstein brothers have captured the spirit of some of their old Miramax classics that helped indie cinema reign supreme in the 90s. It pulls at the heartstrings in occasionally surprising ways and I am not ashamed to say that I cried, but I sure laughed a hell of a lot more.

You'll see the ending coming from a hundred miles away and even if we can forgive a first time script for being overloaded with cliches, the movie has an awful lot of them to wade through. In particular, try to count how many lines Maggie's adulterous husband (30 Rock's Scott Adsit) earns on screen. I think there are two or three, but mostly he just gets a few reaction shots that indicate he is not to be trusted. The film could have gone deeper on almost every level, but Murray's commitment is enough to recommend it.