Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single mother, moves into a new home in Brooklyn with her 12-year old son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Forced to work long hours, she has no choice but to leave Oliver in the care of their new neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray), a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol and gambling. An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair. Together with a pregnant stripper named Daka (Naomi Watts), Vincent brings Oliver along on all the stops that make up his daily routine -- the race track, a strip club, and the local dive bar. Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a man, while Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood man with a good heart.
“Eleven dollars an hour, you pay the snacks. Your kid just ate my last can of sardines.”
Getting to know someone can be tricky business sometimes. A lot of times we judge the people we see at first sight, which isn’t inherently wrong since it’s hardwired behavior to keep us safe, but we risk not getting to know someone who could end up becoming the best human being you could ever meet. ‘St. Vincent’ is a pleasing, hilarious and heartwarming little film that celebrates this idea to fantastic effect. While on the surface it appears to be just another movie to let Bill Murray be Bill, in actuality it has much more going on for it than any trailer let on.
Bill Murray plays Vincent, a curmudgeon who drinks too much, gambles, lies, cheats, steals and takes care of a pregnant prostitute named Daka, Naomi Watts, and on an average day he’s done all of that before noon. Because he’s racked up an extreme gambling debt he needs a lot of cash quick or his bookie, Terrance Howard, is going to have to take steps to recover the losses. He learns his house is worth nothing and his checking account is overdrawn.
After accidentally knocking himself unconscious, Vincent meets Maggie, a wonderful Melissa McCarthy and her small son Oliver, Jaedon Lieberher when their moving truck breaks a large tree branch that destroys his car. To say their first meeting started on rocky ground is an understatement. Going forward, all parties would just assume never speak again, but when little Oliver gets locked out of his house after a devastatingly bad first day at a new school, Vincent is put in the position of watching over the kid for the afternoon until his mom can get home from her job that forces her to work long hours as an cat-scan technician.
Seeing a quick way to make a some extra bucks to blow at the track, Vincent offers to “help” out by babysitting Oliver. In spite of her reservations, Maggie agrees if only because she has no one else to turn to. Quickly Oliver and Vincent realize having the other around isn’t such a bad thing. Oliver gives Vincent the opportunity to showcase his more human, softer side. Vincent takes the young boy to the track, teaches him the long odds, how to stand up to bullies, and even brings him along to visit his ailing wife whom in the depths of Alzheimer’s has long since forgotten who he is - and reveals why he is the way he is.
And that’s where this movie takes a wonderfully unexpected turn towards more dramatic territory. It doesn’t go so deep as to be depressing, but if you don’t find yourself giving a sniffle or feel that knot of emotion in your gut, you must have an iron constitution. This is a movie that knows how to hit the tender emotions while still making you giggle a little. ’St. Vincent,’ could easily have been surface comedy about an ill-behaved older man taking a small kid under his wing as an unlikely mentor and become the hero with a heart of gold - but we’ve seen that movie.
Where ‘St. Vincent’ makes its mark in this genre of comedy-drama is that its characters feel honest and real. Everyone has a bad day or a rough life situation they’re going through and every now and again they just can’t contain it anymore and they let it out towards some innocent bystander. I worked retail for years, I caught my fair share of those days. But if you don’t blame the person, if you keep treating them as a human, you get to know the real person inside and you sometimes end up making a new friend. This is a film that asks you to have a little more empathy in life and take the time to get to know people before you judge them or their situation.
Bringing this movie home is Murray in one of his best roles. But who am I kidding, Murray is always great. The man has a knack for sifting out gold nugget scripts and never disappoints. Also great is Melissa McCarthy who puts in a fantastically restrained and heartfelt performance as a struggling single mother trying to make ends meet while raising a child. Naomi Watts’ pregnant Russian prostitute offers a great foil for Murray to play off of as she knows the score, and pops in for some sound sage advice that may be a bit blunt and far from politically correct. But the true make-it-or-break-it performance comes from Jaedon Lieberher as Oliver. For a first timer, he’s fantastic on screen and plays wonderfully opposite Bill Murray - and if you’re a Murray fan you know that’s no easy task.
If you missed ‘St. Vincent’ during it’s theatrical run, don’t hesitate to give this one a spin. It’s a wonderful little movie and unless you’re the deepest of cynics, you should be thoroughly entertained. Recommended.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
St. Vincent arrives via Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company on a BD-50 disc in a eco-keepcase with dust sleeve. The disc is Region A locked and comes with an HD Ultraviolet Digital Copy code.
’St. Vincent’ comes home in beautiful form with this 1080p 1.78:1 presentation. Detail is spectacular. All you need to do is see the beard stubble on Murray’s chronically unshaven face to see that the fine film grain hasn’t been touched. Colors have a lot of pop and bring a delightful fun, bright image.
Problems surface in the darker scenes and night shots. Black levels have some crush issues that can turn people wearing black into floating heads in the darkness. There is also an instance of light flicker during a slow-motion scene that can be a bit distracting, even if it’s very brief. All in all this is a very solid HD presentation in spite of a couple issues.
Featuring an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, ‘St. Vincent’ really scores big. There is plenty of imaging around the channels to create a nice surround track, even if most scenes ride the stereo channels. Levels are nicely balanced between the dialogue and the wonderful soundtrack so you won’t lose the quiet moments or any stray sound effects. A great track all around.
Spanish and French 5.1 tracks are also available
There are a few decent extras here but not a whole heck of a lot. Worth a look, but not much to revisit in repeat viewings.
Deleted Scenes (HD 10:45) Covering deleted and extended scenes, some are good and others you can see why they got cut out of the film. While not extensive or offer much in the way of additional laughs, they’re worth the look.
Bill Murray is St. Vincent The Patron Saint of Comedy (HD 19:55) This is a Q&A comprised of two sessions from the Toronto International Film Festival and feature some nice insights from Murray, the cast, and his career trajectory from ‘Ghostbusters’ 25 years ago to ‘St. Vincent.’
‘St. Vincent’ is a fantastic movie that was marketed all wrong, or depending on how you want to look at it, 100% correctly. While hilarious and wonderfully funny, it is also unexpectedly deeply heartfelt and sweet natured. Given the performances, the great video and the solid audio track - this is an easy recommendation.