St. Vincent; Theodore Melfi, Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Terrence Howard, Kimberley Quinn
As part of classroom project at St. Patrick, school children, including young Oliver, are asked to research about a saint they know of in real life. According to biblical definition, saints are human beings we celebrate for their commitment and dedication to other human beings. For the project, Oliver chooses his neighbor, war veteran, Vincent (Murray), who used to babysit him while his mother worked late and the two eventually struck up an unlikely friendship. On the surface, as Oliver points out, Vince is the least likely candidate for sainthood.
When you’re introduced to Vince, in the beginning, he sure doesn’t feature any qualities of a saint. He’s broke, abuses a bank teller merely for doing her job, finds an opportunity and cons his neighbor into paying for his broken fence. He’s not a happy person. He doesn’t like people and not many like him too. He’s grumpy, mad at the world and full of regrets. He drinks, smokes, gambles, lies and cheats. He spends most of his time with a hooker, Daka, played by Naomi Watts. These are things you see about Vince at first glance.
Through the eyes of, say a 10-year old Oliver, director Theodore Melfi gives us an opportunity to celebrate the imperfectness of Vince, a man beyond his faults. As a growing up kid, Vince learned all the things kids aren’t supposed to know – fighting, cursing and gambling. He teaches exactly the same things to Oliver, and by learning, Oliver is wary of it. In a scene, when Vince sees Oliver getting bullied by his peers, he teaches him to fight and the next time when he gets bullied, he breaks the nose of his bully, earning both detentions for fighting. In the process, Oliver and his bully get to know each other and eventually become good friends. By teaching Oliver things he’s not supposed to learn at his age, Vince, in a weird way, helps the young boy embrace the imperfectness around him. He embraces his imperfect bully friend, his imperfect mother (who’s mostly busy working in a hospital), and in a touching scene, when Maggie (Melissa), Oliver’s mother inquires about the fight her son got into at school but never told her, Vince says she’s not around mostly for him to even discuss.
A selling point for any comedy is the ability to make the viewer really laugh. Not giggle, not smile from the film’s cleverness, but an erupting, uncontrollable laughter that captures your mind in bliss. Time after time, St. Vincent made me laugh out loud. It runs the gambit over all methods of comedy: physical gags, one-liners, the banter between actors, situational comedy, and awkward moments.
Murray is at his best and there are moments he makes you laugh as well as cry. If the script had a bit more heft, he could’ve probably garnered some Oscar consideration. In a departure from her regular obnoxiously funny roles, McCarthy deserves notice for her performance as a hapless single mother on the brink of losing custody of her child.
Agreed the film is flawed like Vincent’s character and quite slow, but you never lose interest thanks to Murray. Despite the imperfections, St. Vincent is a lovable film that grows on you with every passing minute. It could easily be one of the underrated films you may have missed last year.
We may not be perfect but this makes us realize that our flaws make us, in other words, a saint.