October 26, 2014 -- When Bill Murray takes on a starring role like this in a movie like this, he overpowers it to the point where you don't really notice much else. That being said, there is a lot else in this movie that should be noticed. There are some fine performances, and the story is very good, too. It isn't really believable and it is sentimental, but in a nice way.
Murray plays Vincent, a sour gambler, drunkard and antisocial grump who looks pretty much like a total loser. He's broke, drives a beat up old car and lives in a run-down house that's a mess. He's spent the last of his reverse-mortgage money and his bookie, Zucko (played by Terrence Howard of “Hustle & Flow”) is threatening him with bodily harm if he doesn't pay off his gambling debts. His only companionship is by the hour from a pregnant Russian stripper/prostitute, Daka (Naomi Watts of “The Impossible”).
New neighbors move into the house next door, Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy of “The Heat”) and her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Recently divorced, Maggie is forced to work long hours on her new job as a hospital diagnostic technician to pay the mortgage and the cost of her son's Catholic School bill. She reluctantly hires Vincent to babysit her son after school. Oliver seems to get along fine with Vincent and learns a lot from him. Oliver gradually learns more about Vincent. He is a better man than he appears to be on the surface.
The man who teaches Oliver's class, Brother Geraghty (Chris O'Dowd of “Thor: The Dark World”) assigns his class the task of making a public presentation about a person they personally know who displays the qualities of a saint. Oliver picks Vincent for his project, hence the movie's name. By the time Oliver designates Bill Murray as St. Vincent in the film's most emotional scene, we have long since found out this is a much better man than he first appears to be.
This is a unapologetically sentimental film, but it isn't cheap, or superficial sentiment. I found it emotionally powerful and deeply affecting. Bill Murray is his usual masterful self, and he's the heart of this film in many ways. Melissa McCarthy, who plays a normal person for a change, is excellent, as are Naomi Watts and Chris O'Dowd. Also good is Dario Barosso, who plays a school bully who becomes Oliver's friend after the two fight, and Kimberly Quinn (wife of the film's director Theodore Melfi) who plays a sympathetic nurse at a nursing home.
Jaeden Lieberher was fine as Oliver, but I found his dialog a bit too stilted (he calls Bill Murray “sir” as often as if he was a private in the army speaking to an officer) and his character acts a lot more like a mature adult than a child. The chemistry between Oliver and Vincent is pretty good, however.
In other ways, however, the film is more believable. The child custody case in the film had a realistic outcome, rather than true justice. Oliver's father, cast as a heel, turns out to be not so bad, more like a real person, not a caricature. Even minor characters like this in the film, are shown to have more than one side. That's refreshing. It is actually a pretty well written movie.
Most of all, however, the film is funny, with a lot of good comic lines of dialog and a lot of funny situations. That's no small feat. A lot of so-called comedies can't meet this basic test. This film rates a B.
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