With a narrative structure not too far removed from About a Boy, our hedonistic, cantankerous protagonist in this instance, is Vincent (Murray) – who spends whatever money he has on alcohol and horse racing, in spite of his ever-increasing debt to Zucko (Terrence Howard). However he spots an opportunity to make some easy cash when his new neighbour, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) needs childcare for her teenage son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) while she works late at the hospital. So Vincent, with some assistance from his friend/prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts), begins to babysit, as the non-judgemental youngster’s blissful outlook on life rubs off on this bitter old man, as Vincent questions his ill-tempered demeanour.
There are moments in St. Vincent where Melfi flirts with mawkishness, as a picture that becomes dangerously close to being considered overly sentimental. However it remains just on the right side at all times, with an array of genuinely sweet, and touching moments that derive from this principal friendship. Much of that success is due to Melfi’s ability to never lose sight of the more frivolous, comedic aspects to this tale, which is subtly employed throughout. Of course St. Vincent offers a heightened, cinema-friendly take on reality, but always remains authentic, with humour deriving from naturalistic circumstances and each characters relatable idiosyncrasies.
Murray epitomises this very notion, and his droll, deadpan approach ensures we’re never to be sucked in by the potentially saccharine elements. Anybody else in this role and the film would suffer – but Murray is effortlessly triumphant at portraying flawed, sometimes callous characters, and yet maintaining a sense of affability, a distinctive charm and charisma that can let him off the hook in any circumstance, just clutching on to a warmth that the audience can invest in. Meanwhile, it’s a joy to witness McCarthy in such a dramatic role for a change. Though inherently funny, she can be wasted in overtly, slapstick roles – because she can really act. Even in her last picture, Tammy, the more poignant moments heavily outweighed the comical, and in this production she’s given the platform to prove her worth in that area, and she succeeds. Watts is equally as brilliant, though in her case it is for her joviality, turning in a fine comedy turn, and one that was severely needed following the disasters that were Adore and Diana.
St. Vincent isn’t anything spectacular, and does become somewhat predictable in parts – but it does what it sets out to do extremely well and is exceedingly easy to enjoy. Plus, if you want to witness Bill Murray singing Bob Dylan, which, let’s face it, you most definitely do, then it might just be your lucky day.