Starring: Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Terrence Howard, Chris O’Dowd, Jaeden Lieberher (Rated M 102 min).
Unassuming saintly Vincent is a bawdy loner engaging in the excess of gambling, drinking, smoking and telling people what he really thinks through non-filtered hedonistic opinions. Bill Murray walks, talks, owns this role with pure sardonic splendour.
When young boy Oliver moves into the house next door with separated mum Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), they make an immediate impact on the grumpy reclusive Vietnam War veteran when removalists rupture his tree and fence. Seeking assistance when locked out of the house, Oliver approaches Vincent for somewhere to stay while waiting for his mum, a shift working nurse to come home. Vincent becomes a babysitter by proxy quickly turning into a regular occurrence as a chance to earn a quick dollar from nervous but desperate Maggie.
Oliver begins to learn from the gruff Vincent on the ways of the world, teaches him to defend himself from local bullies, how to read the odds at horseracing and in one of the funniest moments in the film, prepares Oliver for work by having him mow the yard that has zero grass, just dirt. In the middle of all this enlightenment is lady of the night, Daka (Naomi Watts) – a special Russian friend of Vincent who in her own way, makes an impression on Oliver with protective instincts when his own mum is not around.
The qualities of this gem lies with cast commitment and a somewhat unpredictable but inevitable heart-warming conclusion. I had almost given up on Melissa McCarthy in a string of disappointing recent roles accumulating in Tammy, however here she is the most impressive and restrained I have seen since the brilliant 1999 drama, Go.
Cigarette in mouth, Murray is the poster boy for obtrusive individual bewilderment, perfect as Vincent with a secret heart of gold and a grand personal history later explored in detail by new best friend Oliver. Sharing screen chemistry with veteran Murray is never just dialed in, even the Caddyshack gopher had his scene-stealing moments, a rare turn of amateur form is accomplished by pre-teen Jaeden Lieberheras as Oliver matching acute wits with his grizzly mentor with ease.
Cool Terrence Howard is underused as a bookie demanding owed money while Australian Watts in my opinion deconstructs the Russian accent successfully which remarkably gained her an upcoming screen actors guild nomination.
For something different within this festive season of Hollywood blockbusters, the enjoyable black humour of St. Vincent is it.
Shane A. Bassett