Picking up where Clint Eastwood in the somber Gran Torino (get off my lawn!) and Hugh Grant in About A Boy (no man is an island) left off, Bill Murray delivers major laughs as a modern-day Scrooge in St. Vincent. Within a few minutes of meeting Vin (Murray), he’s had sex with a pregnant stripper (a fun Naomi Watts), drank himself into a stupor, and fell asleep on the kitchen floor after cutting his face up on various kitchen surfaces. He immediately gets into a fight with his new neighbour, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), but Vincent also meets her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher).
On his first day of school, Oliver gets his keys stolen so he can’t get into his house since his Mom is at work. He ends up hanging out with Vincent, and the friendship begins. Yes, it’s the process of watching the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes. The amazing thing about St. Vincent is that you don’t realize that it’s telling you the sentimental story that we’ve seen time and time again until you’re already invested. Writer/director Theodore Melfi has written a witty script and directs the film with great energy, but really, this is Bill Murray‘s show, and he soars.
Murray has been focusing on these eccentric characters lately and Vincent is one of his more fully realized performances Murray has ever given. As the layers start to be peeled back on Vincent, Bill thankfully never lets sentimentality creep into his performance. He knows this character inside and out, so while the character developments surprise the audience, they smartly don’t change Bill’s performance.
It’s also a great relief to see Melissa McCarthy play the “straight woman” in a film, especially after the trainwreck that was this summer’s Tammy. She washes the bad taste of that role with her quiet, restrained, and emotional performance here. Also proving to a great onscreen partner for Murray is young Jaeden Lieberher. So much of the development of Vincent depends on the relationship with Oliver, and newbie Lieberher proves to have wonderful chemistry with the comic legend.
It all leads to a super syrupy ending, but you eat it up. You care about these characters, and you care about Vincent. St. Vincent manages to find its own spark in a well-told story with a strong cast lead by a stellar turn from Bill Murray.