Newly single mum Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves into a Brooklyn house with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), and immediately catches the attention of her grouchy neighbour Vincent (Bill Murray) by accidentally damaging his property. When Oliver is locked out of his home, however, he calls on Vincent, and soon an unlikely friendship grows between man and boy.
St. Vincent promises to be a light and funny film about the friendship between a small kid and his grouchy neighbour, and to that end, the film delivers. What is also delivers is some remarkably touching stories, strong performances from the leading cast and a story that, while slightly familiar, is warm and engaging.
Bill Murray seems to have a sense of humour about himself, both as a person and as an actor, and this – coupled with the knowledge that he made great friends with the young cast of Moonrise Kingdom – makes him the obvious choice for the title role of St. Vincent. Murray makes Vincent a man with a good heart, who is plagued by demons including grief and alcohol. The good heart remains, however, and it is through his friendship with Oliver, and his frequent visits to a patient in a nursing home, that the audience gets to see the softer, more caring side of the man.
Melissa McCarthy has spent a lot of time since Bridesmaids, creating kooky, larger than life characters on the big screen, with varying degrees of success, so thank god for her role in St. Vincent. McCarthy gets the chance to tone everything right down, and to play a woman that we recognise on screen. McCarthy is warm and relatable on screen, and brings her strong on screen presence and charisma with her. Jaeden Lieberher is warm and sweet as Oliver, and it is through his eyes that we see the world, and the spark of kindness in Vincent. The chemistry and connection between Lieberher and Murray is wonderful, and together they form the emotional heart of the film. Elsewhere, Naomi Watts turns up as a mouthy and gruff but caring stripper, and Chris O’Dowd plays perhaps the best on screen teacher since Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society.
The story, written by Theodore Melfi is one that immediately feels familiar, as though we have been down this road many times before. That said, for all the films’ predictability, it still has some surprises to offer, and makes up for the familiar ground it treads through wonderful on screen chemistry, touching dialogue and laugh out loud scenes. As director, Melfi allows Murray and Lieberher to rule the screen, and coaxes strong performances from his entire cast, even those with the smaller roles. There is something of Garden State, The Station Agent and Is Anybody There? about St. Vincent, which makes it familiar, but it’s a treat nonetheless.
In all, St. Vincent is a familiar film, but a sweet, heartwarming and surprisingly funny one. Bill Murray shines, as is his wont, and a star is born in young Lieberher. Theodore Melfi directs competently, and has created a familiar, warm and safe world for the film.