Fans of Bill Murray’s rueful hang-doggery will relish this tale by first-time director Melfi of an old geezer whose monogamous whoring and drinking just about keep his ol’ heart beating as he oscillates between home, the bar and the racetrack. Then Maggie (McCarthy) moves in next door. She’s off all day, manning the MRI at a local hospital. Belligerently, he offers his paid services as a babysitter and general tougher-upper to her 12-year-old son (Lieberher).
In terms of originality, St. Vincent can’t match either of its two obvious precedents: About a Boy and Gran Torino. But even as we watch Murray revealed as an essentially good guy in league with childish underdogs, Russian prostitutes and single mothers, feelings of déjà vu are blocked out by the sheer irresistibility of Murray’s and Lieberher’s performances. Watching them gyrate in an awkward Pulp Fiction duet is a sight for the stalest of cinematic eyes – but also a regrettable filmic reference to the kind of truly offbeat comedy that this film aspires to but fails to achieve: even Murray can’t completely rise above a formulaic script and predictable plot. In terms of mainstream quirk, however, it’s a charmingly commendable effort.
St. Vincent | Directed by: Theodore Melfi (USA 2014) with Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher. Starts January 8
Originally published in issue #134, January 2015.