Monday, December 22, 2014

St. Vincent

St. Vincent; drama/ comedy, USA, 2014; D: Theodore Melfi, S: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd

Vincent is a retired Vietnam war veteran, broke, cynical and spends his time drinking all the time. When his new neighbors, the single mother Maggie and her adopted son Oliver, move in, and the moving company accidentally breaks off a branch of Vincent's tree, he demands compensation. In order to appease him, Maggie decides to pay him for picking up Oliver from school and watching over him when she has to stay late in the hospital. However, Vincent slowly softens up for Oliver and teaches him to defend himself and think for himself. After Vincent has a stroke, he has to be taken care of by his semi-girlfriend, the pregnant prostitute Daka, while Maggie has to accept joint custody of Oliver from her ex-husband due to Vincent's poor influence. Oliver, though, makes research of Vincent's life and concludes he was a noble person, thereby proclaims him "St. Vincent".

Films about a little kid meeting a grumpy older man only to soften his heart and make him a better person have already been made on numerous occasions, from "Little Lord Fauntleroy", "Gran Torino", and others, while a similar theme has even been used in one Bill Murray film as well, "Rushmore", yet "St. Vincent" proves that this timeless tale can indeed be timeless if one simply adds a certain new constitution to it: this is a refreshingly honest, emotional, funny, humane and alive film, since Theodore Melfi - in his feature length debut film - simply proves to have something vibrant to offer as an author. For one, he created a great, dignified role for brilliant Murray, which offers not only his elevated Murray humor (the "Porsche" joke; Vincent joking how he is making exercises by lifting his drink up and down before drinking it; Vincent putting his drink near a punching bag as a "challenge" to Oliver who has such a soft punch that he cannot spill it...), but also an emotional dimension - Oliver finds out that inside that cold, defensive shell, Vincent actually has a kind soul and did many good deeds without bragging about them, which culminates in the sequence where the kid proclaims him "St. Vincent" - it is so touching it sends shivers down the spine. Melfi has a wonderfully elegant hand in crafting the 'slice-of-life' storyline and a sovereign sense for wonderful supporting characters, especially the very realistic character of Maggie played by excellent Melissa McCarthy. The only serious, major complaint is one "plot twist" in the second half (Vincent having a stroke and thus having to learn how to talk and walk properly again) that is untypically melodramatic and sappy compared to the rest of the film, since Murray was always above playing handicapped roles for film awards. However, the momentum of the film is so strong that not even such a subplot cannot corrode it: it is simply an inspired film.


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