St. Vincent Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

We live in a culture where we judge people, places, and things based on the initial look. There’s the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and that is very true. But, at the same time, the first impressions we may get may not be accurate, especially when dealing with people. We may meet someone for the first time who just so happens to be having a terrible day. Maybe they just lost their job, their car was broken into, they lost a loved one. We never really know until we take the time to really get to know a person, to find out what their lives are like, and see beneath the exterior to find what good things are within. Such is the basis of St. Vincent, the big screen directorial debut from Theodore Melfi.

Vincent (Bill Murray) has seen better days. His time is spent drinking, visiting a strip bar to see his favorite girl Daka (Naomi Watts) perform, and going to the racetrack to wage a few bets in hopes of hitting it big. He’s in debt to Zucko (Terrance Howard), so getting money is a high priority for him. He has new neighbors move in next door in the form of a newly single mother nurse, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). After a rough first day of school for Oliver (he gets beat up and loses his keys), he stays with Vincent, which ultimately gives Vincent the opportunity to be a daily babysitter for Oliver. Vincent ends up taking Oliver to all the places he goes routinely…places any 12 year old needs to experience (bars, strip clubs, race tracks). Over time, Oliver begins to learn more about himself from Vincent as well as why Vincent is the way he is.

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St. Vincent isn’t a film necessarily breaking any new ground. There have been many other films where a younger child and an older adult spend time together and eventually end up helping each other out in more ways than one. But one of the main differences here is that things don’t necessarily get better. Usually we have growth and the darkness opens up to a bright sky for everyone, but in St. Vincent, that isn’t necessarily the case. It is more like actual life in that it resembles a roller coaster with ups and downs that continue. Some highs are higher than others and some lows are lower than others. But throughout the journey, as long as each person stays on for the ride, there is continual growth. That’s what we get in St. Vincent. This film is also the epitome of why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover as the reasons Vincent is the way he is, and the life that he’s been through, are much more difficult than what most others have to experience.

Bill Murray is absolutely phenomenal in the lead role, and should receive an Oscar nomination for his performance. He brings such a vulnerable character to the screen, masked in this concrete façade, to protect himself from the outside world getting in. It isn’t until Oliver comes into the picture that the concrete begins to be chipped away, little by little, opening up the pain that Vincent contends with. Murray provides arguably his best performance to date and provides a must-see character. His co-star, Jaeden Lieberher, is equally as compelling, albeit less so. This is Lieberher’s first big screen role but he steps into it fully and makes himself available to the audience. He’s a young boy, fresh off a divorce and a move to a new town, who has to deal with bullies at school, no friends, no father figure and a mother who is not there most of the time as she works so they can live. He is a young and impressionable child but wise beyond his years, providing a great balance for the performance Murray delivers. The other roles, notably by McCarthy and Watts, work to fill in the narrative and help progress elements of the story. But this film belongs to Murray and Lieberher and they are brilliant to say the least.

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St. Vincent has a little something for each individual and a whole lot for everyone. The film is a good reminder that everyone has deeper stories than what we can initially see and that we shouldn’t judge people before we really get to know them and what drives them to do what they do. Bill Murray is absolutely magical in his role and, if for no other reason, you should see the move just for that. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying, angry and happy, sorrowful and apathetic. It’s an entire cornucopia of emotions that you’ll find yourself experiencing, and that unto itself is a wonderful thing. Take the time and go experience St. Vincent; you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


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