“We don’t bump the ugly parts no more, so don’t ask.”
Modern day Bill Murray has settled into a definite rhythm. He makes middle to highbrow stuff (with the occasional train wreck), where he gets to be the best thing in it. He gets juicy roles that, on paper, look like they should lead to Oscar nominations, but rarely do. He obviously only makes what tickles his fancy. On paper St Vincent would have looked like a sure fire Oscar contender and fancy tickler. In practice, it’s a better than average, middle brow, feel good drama.
Vin (Bill Murray) has life down to a science. He drinks too much, he gambles too much, he hides form his bookie, he bangs a local Russian stripper (Naomi Watts as Daka) who’s unborn baby may or not be his, and he’s broke. When his new neighbour Maggie (Melissa MCarthy) knocks down a tree that lands on his car and breaks his fence, he sees it has a quick cash grab. When Maggie’s son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), arrives on Vin’s doorstep one day because he’s locked out of his house and his mum works long hours, Vin decides to cash in even more, becoming Oliver’s babysitter.
Vin and Oliver visit the race track, they visit a local dive bar, Vin teaches Oliver how to stand up to the school bully, and lots of preciousness ensues. Of course, hanging out with Oliver means Vin eventually starts to let people into his life in a way that he obviously hasn’t in many years. If you’ve seen the trailer, or even if you’ve just read this far, you probably think you know exactly what to expect from this movie. And you’re right, but only to a point.
Because pretty much every story beat and cliché I expected is there. But the good news is, St Vincent gets most of that out of the way in the first half. And it gets better from there. But it’s also the kind of movie where it’s most predictable and corny moments are more than bearable. Obviously, having Bill Murray in the lead role means a lot of the heavy lifting is taken care of when it comes to charm and charisma.
In the world of St Vincent, there are no bad guys. Vin is angry because he can’t afford to keep his wife, who’s suffering from dementia, in an upscale care facility. Maggie technically neglects her son, but only because she’s working so hard to provide for him. Daka is selfish and opportunistic, until Vin needs real help and she steps up. Oliver’s bully gets a scene where we hear about him being bullied. Even Oliver’s dad, who is only ever talked about as a ruthless prick and only seen briefly, kind of gets to be a good dad that one time we do see him.
St Vincent is the kind of heart string pulling, blatant feel good movie that I would usually hate. But writer and director Theodore Melfi wears all of this on his sleeve and never once tries to disguise his movie as anything but heart string pulling feel goodness. And the big, climactic speech scene, when the movie’s title is put into action, is telegraphed a mile away. But I’ll be buggered if it still didn’t hit me like a tonne of bricks. I guess there’s nothing wrong with sentimentality when the movie makes no bones about it.
And if all of that still turns you off, you should at least watch enough to hear Naomi Watts’ scenery chewing, over the top Russian accent. Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle would tell her to tone it down a bit.