‘St. Vincent’ warms hearts, brings laughs

From left, Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher star in 'St. Vincent.'Associated Press
From left, Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher star in ‘St. Vincent.’
Associated Press

By Julia Eckardt

St. Vincent offers nothing new or surprising in terms of plot, and the ending can be seen from a mile away. However, the stellar performances from the cast make the film worth watching. Bill Murray takes the lead role as Vincent, Melissa McCarthy plays single mother Maggie and newcomer Jaedon Lieberher plays her son Oliver.

Vincent MacKenna chugs each alcoholic beverage like it’s the last drink left in the desert, puffs out more smoke than a chemical manufacturing plant, and verbally assaults anyone unfortunate enough to encounter him.

A gambling addiction has Vincent in deep with a loan shark, played by Terrance Howard, and his bank account shows a negative balance. He is even in debt to the pregnant Russian prostitute, played by Naomi Watts, that he frequently “socializes” with.

He is possibly one of the most unlikeable lead characters in any movie yet, even before his redeeming qualities are established, it is hard not to root for him because it is obvious there will be something later that shows us he is worth caring for.

Desperate for cash with no prospects on the horizon, Vincent lucks out when his new neighbor, 12-year-old Oliver, has his house key stolen by a bully and requires a place to hang out until his mother returns from work.

Maggie is recently divorced. She moved to Brooklyn with her son Oliver to start a new life away from her lothario ex-husband. The long hours at her new job as a CAT scan technician leave her in search of a babysitter, and Vincent is the most qualified candidate due to immediate availability and close proximity.

For $12 an hour, Vincent becomes the permanent babysitter for Oliver, a sweet-natured, undersized boy with difficulty fitting in at school. Though Vincent agreed to watch Oliver, he never intended to change his routine. Instead he takes the boy with him to his favorite bars and teaches him how to bet at the Belmont horse track. Vincent also teaches Oliver the art of self-defense (how to break the nose of a persistent bully) and the value of a dollar (by making him mow a dirt lawn).

As per usual with Murray, the comedic timing is flawless. He brings heart to a character that, on the surface, doesn’t appear to have one at all. His ability to make a scene in which an angry old man violently threatens a group of prepubescent boys charming is something that must be witnessed.

McCarthy steps away from her typical role as the foul-mouthed, overly aggressive instigator to a straight-laced, loving mother with only a few small punch lines. She plays a “normal person” with just as much finesse as any of her more ridiculous characters.

In his feature film debut Lieberher as Oliver makes the perfect sidekick to Vincent. Adorable and funny, he gives a heartfelt performance including his big moment at the end, which is enough to bring out the waterworks for the more sensitive viewers in the theater (myself).

Even though the plot isn’t entirely original and it is highly predictable in nature, in the end St. Vincent is a feel good movie that will leave audiences smiling, and there is nothing wrong with that.

102 minutes, rated PG-13