We first meet Vincent (Bill Murray) in bed with a pregnant Russian prostitute, Daka (Naomi Watts), whose romantic services he is unable to fully pay for. The few schillings that the cantankerous retiree does have get drowned in the local watering hole he frequently inhabits. In one of his typical drunken hazes, Vincent not only backs his car into his fence, but also ends up spending the night face down on his kitchen floor.
When a new neighbour Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door the following morning, and inadvertently causes Vincent’s tree to fall on his 80’s LeBaron convertible, he seizes the opportunity to blame the damage to his fence on her as well. Needless to say, this is far from the warm neighbourly welcome that Maggie and her twelve-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) had hoped for. Despite their volatile introduction, Vincent finds himself with no other financial alternative than to approach Maggie about the possibility of babysitting her son during her late night-shifts.
Soon Vincent and Oliver strike up a bond over Vincent’s Persian cat Felix and a shared love of Abbott and Costello. Spending their time together at places of Vincent’s choosing, none of which are suitable for children, Oliver gets an education that would give most mothers a heart-attack. However, unbeknownst to the pair, this unique arrangement begins to have a positive impact on both of them. Oliver gains the confidence needed to deal with his classmates at school, and Vincent learns that there is more to life than burying his anger in loose women and cheap alcohol.
Making his directorial debut, Theodore Melfi’s film is full of rich material. His script is brisk and features plenty of witty banter between the characters. The part of Oliver is especially well written. While others might be tempted to write the character as sickly sweet and innocent, Melfi’s Oliver is fully aware of both his parent’s pending divorce and Vincent’s various vices. Although the casting of Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy would suggest a comedic romp, Melfi’s story is far more dramatic in tone than most will anticipate. St. Vincent focuses on the themes of choice and consequence, Vincent must learn the hard way when a bookie, Zucko (Terrence Howard), comes seeking payment for the gambling debts Vincent has racked up.
Bill Murray is perfect in the role of Vincent. Though playing a weary war vet, Murray carries the same sly vigor that he showcased in films like Stripes and Ghostbusters years ago. The supporting cast do a solid job of hitting all the right marks as well. Naomi Watts and Chris O’Dowd are especially superb as the film’s main source of comic relief.
St. Vincent is a warm uplifting film that soars from its opening sequences. It has more highly charged dramatic moments than expected, which will no doubt cause several watery eyes within the theatre. Subtle and effective, St. Vincent is a film that I can highly recommend.