St. Vincent (2014)

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Directed by: Theodore Melfi

 St. Vincent made me cry. I seldom cry at films, and if I think long and hard, I can’t think of many films off the top of my head which have made me shed a tear. Perhaps ‘Homeward Bound’, that is the most obvious one I recall. But what was it about St. Vincent? Maybe it was Bill Murray’s marvellous performance. Murray for me is an actor on equal footing with the late Robin Williams, an actor who has always been there throughout my film watching life.

I suppose St. Vincent slots into Murray’s melancholic late renaissance. ‘St. Vincent’ stands next to ‘Broken Flowers’, ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’. Murray plays Vincent, an alcoholic, foul tempered Vietnam veteran. The character reminded me a lot of Charles Bukowski, only without Buk’s ability to write about his painful existence.

Vincent at first appears to have few redeeming qualities. He sleeps with a pregnant Eastern European slipper, has run up a host of gambling debts and snarls at anyone who crosses his path. The power of Murray’s performance is that he can make that kind of character likeable, even before we begin to see the good qualities of Vincent.

There are a few troubling things about this movie that will divide opinion, and I suppose one is quite a big part of the film which I’m reluctantly to give away, so let’s get on to Naomi Watts’ performance as Daka, the Eastern European prostitute. Watts puts on the kind of ‘Russian-ish’ accent that your best friend would do after knocking back several shots of cheap vodka. I really have no idea if she’s brilliant or terrible in St. Vincent. It’s a real marmite performance. This continues a strange, but exciting period for Watts, in that she appears to be deliberately acting terribly in really good films. See also her overwrought role in ‘Birdman’.

The supporting cast in ‘St. Vincent’ really bounce off Murray; one of the big surprises is Melissa McCarthy who plays Vincent’s new neighbour. McCarthy has perhaps unfairly received a whole host of shit for being cast in the ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot, but her role in this film is a fine rebuttal to all the haters. This isn’t your usual brash and crass McCarthy performance; she tones it down several notches and convinces as Maggie, the struggling single Mother. Her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is also excellent, as the kid who melts Vincent’s icey exterior.

Yes, ‘St. Vincent’ is sentimental, but it’s an old fashioned feel good movie that’s really been lacking of late. It reminded me of classic films like ‘Uncle Buck’ or ‘As Good as it Gets’, a rogue’s redemption story.

– RJW

8/10

 

St. Vincent on IMDB

 

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