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Murray Excels as a Geezer with a Heart of Gold in St. Vincent

Murray Excels as a Geezer with a Heart of Gold in <i>St. Vincent</i>

DVD Release Date: February 17, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: October 17, 2014 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrance Howard, Jaeden Lieberher, Nate Corddry, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Ann Dowd

Who needs grumpy old men when you've got Bill Murray? Absolutely perfect as a curmudgeon who befriends a neighborhood kid for his own monetary gain, the 64-year-old actor is both darkly funny and appropriately dramatic in St. Vincent.

Thanks to that particularly inspired casting decision, not to mention winning turns against type from supporting players Melissa McCarthy (Tammy) and Naomi Watts (Diana), St. Vincent is transformed from a conventional indie movie, well-worn clichés and all, into something far more special.

Like Hugh Grant's self-involved character in About a Boy but with decidedly darker edges, perpetual sourpuss Vincent De Van Nuys (Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson) has carefully structured his life for his own comfort. In addition to being a regular at the local watering hole in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, the grouchy war vet also has a standing appointment with a pregnant exotic dancer (when he can afford her) and the horses he bets on in Belmont Park. Needless to say, he comes across as anything but a winner.

But every once in a while, something happens that shakes up life's predictable routine, and for Vincent, that's when a single mother named Maggie (McCarthy) and her pre-teen son Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher in a career-making debut) move next door. After their movers accidentally run into his fence, not hard to do considering Vincent's own alcohol-fueled driving mishaps, Vincent sees an opportunity to make a little extra cash. Of course, wanting to be a good neighbor, Maggie immediately agrees to pay for the damage.

Since being short on cash is practically a way of life for Vincent, another opportunity to profit from his new neighbors winds up presenting itself a couple of days later when Maggie is forced to stay late at her new job. Needing someone to look after son, especially being new in town and all and not knowing anyone, Vincent offers his services for a $11.00 an hour, plus extra if Maggie is working overtime.

Naturally, Maggie enjoys the convenience of having a sitter so close by but doesn't realize until much later that Vincent is pretty much the worst guy you'd want watching your kid. Strangely enough, however, Vincent and Oliver slowly and quite believably forge a friendship, although Vincent would never call it that. But because of their continued presence in each other's lives, they actually end up learning from—and helping—each other.

That's not to say that everything about St. Vincent is a win. The film has its fair share of questionable behavior, especially considering a child is involved. But underneath the tough exterior of a hurting and weathered man is proof positive that saints are never perfect people. Far from it. And that discovery - how there's often more to people than merely what's seen on the outside - is one that's enjoyable to watch young Oliver make.

While there's no question of where the feel-good story is headed, St. Vincent never descends into full-on cheesy territory. With Murray being such a master of playing a complex geezer with a heart of gold, St. Vincent is an appealing character study, major flaws and all.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Vincent is regularly shown smoking and abusing alcohol, even in front of a child.
  • Language/Profanity: Not pervasive, but Vincent has quite a mouth on him and uses the full range of profanity, including some misuses of God's name.
  • Sex/Nudity: Vincent pays a pregnant exotic dancer/ “lady of the night” to have sex with him on a weekly basis. No nudity, save for Daka’s burgeoning belly, but we do see them in bed on a couple of occasions. In one scene, we see Daka working the pole at a gentleman's club. Vincent is shown looking at a dirty magazine. References to Oliver's father's many extramarital affairs.
  • Violence: Repeatedly being bullied at school leads Oliver to punch a classmate in the nose. Vincent is threatened with physical violence on several occasions because of failure to pay his gambling debts. It's clear that Vincent drives under the influence of alcohol.

Publication date: October 14, 2014