Wednesday, November 5, 2014

St. Vincent (2014)

by Kelsey Barritt, Writing Intern            

When an unlikely duo—of a drunk, crotchety old man and an innocent, loyal boy—come together, writer and director Theodore Melfi strikes gold. St. Vincent, a beautifully deep and crafty film artfully brings an unexpected modern day saint to light. The dramedy unfolds the complex lives of seemingly simple characters and reveals angelic qualities within the most deviant personalities.

Going through a messy divorce, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) picks up and moves, with her son, to a new house in Brooklyn. Her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), has a heart of gold and tends to believe that most other people do as well. From the start, his hopeful eyes, and beyond-his-years outlook, win audiences over. His small stature and quiet nature do him no favors at his new school though. He struggles to make connections.

Maggie must work long days, to support her son, as a newly single woman. For some reason, the logical person to babysit Oliver after school is her next-door neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray). Vincent, an obvious alcoholic with a gambling problem, spends much of his time with “the lady of the night.” Generally, he dislikes people. Oliver does not particularly annoy him, though, and that is why he agrees to babysit for $11 an hour. What starts as a forced acquaintanceship quickly transforms into a genuine friendship. Vincent begins to rely on Oliver just as much as Oliver relies on Vincent.

Vincent and Oliver bring out the best in each other. Vincent teaches Oliver to stick up for himself and others. Oliver looks for the good in Vincent, and is not even surprised when he finds it. Murray brilliantly portrays a bitter and grumpy yet generous and loving man, whose luck simply ran out. People don’t know much about him, and he likes it that way. But under the nasty, irresponsible rude shell stands a man who constantly puts others before himself. In fact, that shell makes him even more likeable because it reveals one of the most likeable qualities of all: humility.

Clever conversations carry the movie. Audiences constantly shift back and forth between two points of view: a discouraged man who has seen it all and an optimistic boy with a fresh soul. These two personalities compliment each other just enough to deliver a wonderful amount of fun, from dancing in bars to cheering at horse races. At the same time, they contrast just enough for viewers to worry about where the relationship might go.

There are twists and turns, but for the most part, St. Vincent is heartwarming and restorative. It delves into darkness and uncovers the most beautiful of moments lying somewhere beneath the surface. An ill-advised parenting decision—allowing a young boy to learn life lessons from a bitter drunk—becomes one of the most insightful and genuine movies of the year. 
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