MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By The Weinstein Company
Directed by Theodore Melfi. Starring Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher
The cranky next-door neighbor who lives next door to a precocious kid is as old as Dennis the Menace and Boy Meets World. But when that neighbor is played by Bill Murray, the tables are turned: it’s the boy who is the voice of reason and the grownup in arrested development who wants to have all the naughty fun.
When single mom Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and middle-school son Oliver (Lieberher) move into their Brooklyn home they soon meet Vincent (Murray), a retired eccentric who lives a lonely life at home when he’s not down drinking at the bar or playing the ponies. Maggie and Vincent get off to a bad start, but when Maggie’s work schedule makes it impossible to be at home when Oliver returns from Catholic school, Vincent is hired as a babysitter.
It’s a concept that is rich with possibilities and St. Vincent has more than a few great moments, thanks to a great cast that (in addition to Murray and Lieberher, who are both wonderful) also includes Naomi Watts (as a Russian prostitute/pregnant pole dancer with a heart of gold) and Chris O’Dowd (as a compassionate priest and parochial school teacher). But the film is overstuffed with incidents that involve (in no particular order) a schoolyard bully, alcoholism, reflections on sainthood, Alzheimer’s disease, gambling, Vietnam veterans, failing bank accounts, strokes, and Bob Dylan.
The film has a hard time finding its tone. Since it is beholden to its PG-13 rating, most of the sinning is incredibly friendly, including the nicest bookie who ever threatened a client (Terrence Howard) and a sex scene shot so discreetly that little kids would not even know what was happening. Every time it seems like the movie might be veering into anarchist humor (like 2003’s Bad Santa), it decides to move towards sentimentality.
It is pretty easy to see where the movie wants to take us, and if you like that kind of comfort food you will not only enjoy St. Vincent, but you may also be moved to tears. The two persons who viewed this movie with me clearly loved it more than I did. But I decided to keep my mouth shut. I knew that I would write this review later, after all, and I didn’t want to be remembered as that cranky old neighbor in the next seat.
Three halos: The film is filled with lovable characters that care about each other in spite of their personal problems.
Three pitchforks: For personal problems that include swearing, drinking, gambling, erotic dancing, prostitution, and general risky behavior.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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