To say that Bill Murray is getting better with age is an understatement; that he chooses interesting, meaty roles would probably be an accurate assumption. Going back to his masterfully world-weary Herman Blume in Rushmore, he’s been consistent and worth the time spent watching, even if some of the films overall weren’t great. With St. Vincent, he’s once again mastered the art of the curmudgeon with a soul.
Murray stars as Vincent MacKenna, a Vietnam vet and retiree from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; he’s irascible, unlikable, consistently drunk and broke due to gambling. He has a wife in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s who he visits weekly. He has regular encounters with a pregnant prostitute/dancer named Daka, played wonderfully by Naomi Watts. Even though he’s a louse, people seem to like Vincent. The always-brilliant Melissa McCarthy is his new neighbor, Maggie Bronstein, a newly-divorced single mom with an older-than-his-years son, Oliver – stunningly played by Jaeden Lieberher – they meet Vincent after their moving truck breaks a tree branch, which damages Vincent’s old LeBaron and destroys his fence. By getting off on the wrong foot, the movie takes off.
Much of it is the predictable grumpy old man takes boy under his wing as his “babysitter” while learning a few new lessons on the way, but it’s Murray’s portrayal as Vincent, who turns out to be a far more sympathetic character than could have been guessed at. McCarthy is wholly believable as the struggling mother – working long hours and dealing with a mean-spririted ex-husband who wants to fight her for Oliver’s custody. Jaeden Liberher is a revelation as the calm but willing to listen and learn Oliver. Through bullying at school to spending time with Vincent at the nursing home to the aftermath of Vincent’s stroke, Oliver is the anchor through the movie.
Every now and then, a movie comes along that holds you firmly in its grasp until the last credit rolls. That’s how I viewed St. Vincent. Award-worthy performances from everyone; a realistic not-quite-happy ending and thankfully, it did not veer into faux sentimentality. A tip of the hat to Theodore Melfi’s script and direction. St. Vincent is worth the two hours spent watching.
Available now on DVD and pay-per-view