Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Single mother Maggie (McCarthy) and her 12 year old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move to Brooklyn to start a new life, but as she is forced to work long hours, Maggie finds herself having to ask her new next door neighbour Vincent (Murray), to look after Oliver. Despite Vincent’s tendency to drink and gamble, and his seemingly unlikeable demeanour, he and Oliver form an unlikely friendship.
I have certainly moaned about this before, but after watching St. Vincent I very much feel the need to moan about it again; Misleading posters and DVD covers that portray a film as being different to what it actually is just so that it can make more money! The British DVD cover of St. Vincent suggests it to be a typical Bill Murray comedy with his usual desert dry delivery and wit on display, especially as a quote on the cover says “the most outrageous comedy of the year”. I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say that St. Vincent is very much a drama with the occasional bit of comedy. This is of course fine and I will judge a film on its own terms while watching, but the cynical and misleading marketing is just getting a little annoying!
As a drama (which is what it very much first and foremost is), St. Vincent is certainly a decent watch, but this is thanks mainly to the performances as writer/ director Theodore Melfi seems more than happy to keep to narrative conventions and lazy clichés as well as struggling to fit the narrative around its menagerie of characters.
Bill Murray is predictably excellent as the rather clichéd protagonist, and though of course it would be nice to see get more comedic lines, he does make Vincent very endearing. The relationship between Vincent and Oliver is of course the lynchpin of the narrative and this is undoubtedly engaging, with newcomer Jaeden Lieberher putting in a great performance and sharing decent on-screen chemistry with Murray.
Sadly, in what is an overambitious narrative in terms of the number of characters and subplots, the rest of the cast fail to get the chance to shine for various reasons; I may be very quick to insult Melissa McCarthy’s brand of ‘comedy’, but have always stated that she is a talented actress when she wants to be, especially when doing more serious drama, and she is really good in what is a more serious role, but sadly gets limited screen time. Meanwhile, despite being on the front cover, Chris O’Dowd is very good in his role as priest and teacher at Oliver’s catholic school, but gets even less screen time than McCarthy. There is a subplot involving Terrence Howard’s character which is completely pointless, and Naomi Watts’ character gets a lot of screen time, but seems very pointless at times, with her only memorable characteristic being her offensively bad Russian accent.
As it reaches its extremely inevitable conclusion, St, Vincent does prove to be an endearing watch, but apart from one admittedly unexpected plot development, Theodore Melfi just truly struggles to keep his film together. There are subplots that achieve nothing and some others that do add genuine sentimentality, but if written differently instead of with Melfi’s seeming fear to wander from convention and cliché, could have contained a far more emotional (and therefore rewarding) wallop when we reach the inevitable conclusion. St. Vincent is certainly a decent and very watchable drama, but what is disappointing is that it could have been far better.
A far more serious drama then the cynical marketing executives try to make it look; St. Vincent is certainly a well-acted and endearing (if predictable) drama, but has too many characters, subplots and structural problems to be any more than that.