★★★ | | St. Vincent: Grinning From Ear To Ear

Vincent with no visible regular means of support and with a not a single friend in the world other than Felix his rather mangy Persian cat, is a cantankerous old drunk. When Maggie a newly single mother and Oliver her 12-year-old son move into the house next door, things get off to bad start between them and him, and it looks like they will be added to the long list of people who Vincent loathes. Then one day when Oliver gets inadvertently locked out of his house when his mother is trapped at work, and Vincent becomes a reluctant babysitter.

Always desperately short of cash, mainly due to his very unsuccessful gambling habit, when Vincent realises that looking after Oliver every night after school will actually earn him some money, he signs up for the job albeit begrudgingly. However unbeknown to Maggie, Vincent sees no reason to change his normal routines and drags the boy around all his regular seedy and totally inappropriate haunts. When he discovers that the boy is being picked on at school he teaches Oliver how to break the bully’s nose, which to everyone’s surprise he successfully puts into practice the very next day.

There are two people in Vincent’s life that he actually likes. One is a pregnant Russian stripper called Daka, and the second is Sandy an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s who lives in a seniors centre. As the story unfolds it slowly becomes obvious why these women warrants special attention. Eventually, Vincent also starts to bond with his geeky charge and their relationship is really cemented when Oliver manages to change Vincent’s losing streak at the race track.

Center strand to the story is that at the Catholic School Oliver attends each of the pupils is encouraged to nominate a person from their everyday lives to be a Saint. Despite his drinking, gambling and hanging out with hookers, Vincent is Oliver’s choice for canonization which seems an unrealistic fit with the Catholic Church, but this is the movies after all.

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This debut feature written and directed by newbie filmmaker Ted Melfi is purely a vehicle for the great comic actor Bill Murray who now specialises in playing old curmudgeons. He is unquestionably funnier than the movie itself, which although has some good comic moments, is just a little too sweet and syrupy which is not a good fit with Vincent’s grumpy personna.

Melissa McCarthy has very little to do as Maggie, Naomi Watts as Daka seems as uncomfortable as we are listening to her silly Russian accent, and Chris O’Dowd is painfully unfunny as the school priest.

However young Jaeden Lieberher playing Oliver puts in a fine performance and there was excellent chemistry between him and Mr Murray.

It’s not the laugh-out loud comedy it sets out to be, but it will have you grinning from ear to ear some of the time.