Review: “St. Vincent” (***)

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Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher showing off their moves in “St. Vincent.”

Had anyone else coveted the film’s namesake roll, “St. Vincent” would not have as successful a run as it’s had here. But Bill Murray, in his predictably unpredictable nature, works as the prickly, curmudgeon of a man whose bad decisions are only bested by the bad decisions that precede it. In fact, somehow, with each poor decision he makes, we’re tricked into liking him more. And more and more.

Vincent is a wildly unhappy man who grips the bottle too tightly and runs his mouth too quickly. He’s cheerless, frankly belligerent, incorrigible, and tolerates only a seldom few: a pregnant stripper Daka (Naomi Watts), an older woman named Sandy (Donna Mitchell) who we later learn is his Alzheimer-riddled wife, and Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), a small and shy 12-year-old boy who moves into the house next door with his newly single mom (Melissa McCarthy).

After being bullied at his new school, Oliver’s keys are taken he finds himself locked out of his house, he knocks on Vincent’s door asking to use the phone. Vincent needs money and Oliver needs a baby sitter, and so begins this whirlwind of a relationship. Vincent and Oliver are captivating as leads and share a very obvious chemistry. Despite his bad-natured behavior, Oliver sees the good in people, and for his class project, where the students are forced to find the saints among us, Oliver chooses to present Vincent.

And this is where the film becomes a tad overdone, a tad overwrought: Oliver’s presentation on why exactly Vincent’s his saint. He presents it to his increasingly-civil (or so it seems) parents, his classmates, his classmates’ parents, and to Vincent himself. And then he proceeds shove it down our throats. And it’s too much. I already get it. I just spent the entire movie watching Vincent as this cold, callous guy, but really, as the film evidences, he’s just hurt and broken, and when it comes down to it, he’s not that bad of a guy after all. And it goes on and on and on. And it was a moving speech, it really was. It was sweet, I even got a bit choked up, but even then, even when I was at my emotional peak for this movie I knew it was still a bit too much.

This film falls nicely into the tragicomic category, dancing delicately along the line between melancholic and comic. Murray expertly punctures those exceptionally heavy moments with his quick-witted remarks, swiftly deflating any tension that’s verging on the over-robust. I’d give “St. Vincent” a 3 out of 5 stars. Check it out, but it’s not so grand a movie that it demands a large screen in a theatre; renting it on Redbox and watching it on your perfectly average-sized TV will do just fine.

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