St. Vincent (2014)

Oliver and Vincent the old guy, are neighbors and later become friends when Oliver’s mother pays Vincent to watch Oliver after school.

Bill Murray plays an angry, down on his luck man, whose life is rather pitiful. Young Oliver’s life is not much better: parents divorcing, new neighborhood, new school and gets picked on.

Oliver gets locked out of his house after school kids steal this clothes, so Vincent agrees to watch him for a few hours, for pay of course. That begins their relationship.

Oliver’s mother, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), is involved in a divorce, has a new job that forces her to rely on Vincent when she has to work long hours.

Vincent lives in a rundown house, he’s broke, owes gamblers, and visits Daka (Naomi Watts), a pregnant Russian prostitute. He also visits his wife Sandy, who is in a memory care facility. She thinks Vincent is her doctor most of the time. Vincent is very behind in payment for his wife’s care, and facing having to find cheaper care for her.

Vincent observes Oliver being pounded by a group of boys, so he teaches Oliver to defend himself.  Taking Vincent’s advice, Oliver breaks a kid’s nose, and gets in trouble for the school fight.  The one good thing is that Oliver and his aggressor start to bond as friends.

Vincent takes Oliver to the horse track, where pick a trifecta and win a lot money. Vincent opens savings account for Oliver, and they celebrate, by going to the Vincent’s favorite bar.

ST. VINCENT
(L-R) BILL MURRAY and JAEDEN LIEBERHER star in ST. VINCENT

Maggie is having a rough time, her soon to be ex is suing for custody of Oliver.  Putting Oliver in Vincent’s care will have consequences.

Vincent is desperate to pay for his wife’s care, so he takes Oliver’s savings and loses it at the track, trying to parley it into enough to solve his money problem. The gambler gets wind of Vincent coming into money and is waiting for him, wanting to collect what he is owed; Vincent’s body has other plans, causing him to suffers a stroke, ending up in physical and speech rehab.

Oliver’s teacher assigns the students to research someone and decide if they have the qualities for sainthood. Vincent, wallowing in self-pity, calls Oliver stupid. Oliver is hurt because he saw something redeeming below Vincent’s insensitivity and pain.

Daka, the prostitute, moves in to take care of Vincent while he recovers; for pay of course. Maggie receives the bad news that she must share custody of Oliver, in part due to Vincent’s influence.  Oliver also gets a new babysitter as part of the deal.

Vincent learns that his wife has died while he was rehabbing from his stroke. He also learns she has been cremated, so he cannot even say goodbye. In his grief, he gathers up pictures and other personal items and puts them in the trash. Oliver is watching and digs them out. These items reveal things about Vincent’s life that others do not know.

Oliver begins interviewing the people in Vincent’s life.  On the day of his school presentation on sainthood, Maggie takes the day off to be in attendance at Oliver’s school.  Oliver’s dad is there too.  It is implied that there is a thawing between the parents.

Meanwhile, Daka announces that her water has broken, so she tells Vincent they need to go to the hospital. It’s actually a ploy to get Vincent to Oliver’s school. They arrive at school as Oliver begins his presentation. As he starts describing Vincent, it’s not very complimentary, but he says it is what you see at first glance. Oliver then tells of Vincent’s tough youth where he had to fight to protect himself, and then of going off to war in Vietnam where Vincent was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism.  Oliver then talks about what Vincent has done to help him and Maggie, and how he cared for his wife for the eight years she didn’t recognize him. Saints are not perfect, but they can still have saintly qualities. Oliver hangs the saint medal on Vincent, as they both appreciate the moment.

Normally, films with leading characters as disagreeable as Vincent, are tough sells. Murray carries it well, because Murray is Murray, the wisecracking and somewhat vulnerable old man under the surface.  Vincent allows a smattering of compassion and empathy to break through the gray clouds of his life.  Murray is not everyone’s cup of tea.  He can be like a frat boy who got angrier in his advancing years, his sarcasm can be quite biting, yet he can make it all disappear with a sly, offhanded remark.   If you are hoping that Vincent gets all gooey, sentimental in the end, that does not happen, although you see that he’s softened and more accepting toward others than he was at the beginning of the film.

ST. VINCENT
ST. VINCENT (2014) (L-R) MELISSA McCARTHY, JAEDEN LIEBERHER and NAOMI WATTS

Melissa McCarthy does not have much to do in the film except seem exasperated and hurt most of the time.  Jaeden Lieberher plays Oliver, a very polite and grown-up young man.  His performance is spot-on.  Chris O’Dowd plays Brother Geraghty, Oliver’s teacher, a worldly and empathetic Catholic priest.  O’Dowd is fun to watch, his scenes are some of the best. Naomi Watts is barely recognizable as Daka, the brutally honest prostitute that treats Vincent more like an uncle.  Terrance Howard plays the gambler/loan shark that Vincent owes money.  Howard does the most with a very limited part.  The entire cast is quite watchable.

Based on real life events of writer/director Ted Melfi (Hidden Figures).  This was Melfi’s second feature, and first mainstream directed film.  There is a small, intimate feel to the film, which fits this character-story snuggly.


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