St. Vincent is shamelessly manipulative, and dissolves in a sentimental puddle of goo at the end, but I liked it, and I have to admit it got to me, even though I hate myself for it.
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, Bill Murray stars as the irascible Vince, a roguish Vietnam vet who smokes, drinks, gambles, consorts with prostitutes, and is an all-around grouch. But, of course, he really has a heart of gold. After all, he does have a cat.
This film, you may notice, is very much like Bad Santa. Both films have louses who are redeemed by watching out over pathetic little boys. Both chase off bullies. Both teach questionable life lesson (Murray teaches his young charge how to bet at the track). But Bad Santa, though it flirts with sentiment, never really goes whole hog like St. Vincent does. For example, the kid in Bad Santa is really pathetic, while the kid in St. Vincent is smart, polite, and the kind of kind anyone would love to have.
The plot is pretty simple: single mom Melissa McCarthy moves in next door to Murray. She ends up paying him to babysit. Man and kid bonds. There are bookies involved, and a Russian stripper/hooker (played disastrously by the normally excellent Naomi Watts). Their is not only a character with Alzheimer’s, another has a stroke, doubling down the mawkishness.
The film is elevated above its trappings by Murray. I read a review wondering if Murray has ever been perfectly served by a film, and this may be the closest. He seems perfectly at home with this character. Some of the lines are vintage Murray, such as when he says prostitution is the only honest profession, or that being dead is the oldest you can be. The closing credit sequence, in which he listens and sings along to Bob Dylan while playing with a garden hose, brought me back to his work in Caddyshack.
So do see this film, and curse yourself if you get a tear in your eye during the shameless climax of the film, which I won’t even describe because it will remind me what a softie I am.
My grade for St. Vincent: B.