It’s been a good while since I’ve both laughed and cried at a movie. But somehow, some way, St. Vincent did produce that effect. Bill Murray has not played any good comedic roles in many moons, but he really sinks his teeth into this one. Mind you, this is far from a perfect movie, and Vincent McKinley, Vietnam vet and erstwhile gambler, is far from a perfect person. But Bill Murray knows exactly how to play him, and for an hour and 43 minutes one is totally taken in by this grumpy old man, who secretly has a really good heart.
If you are old enough to remember the TV and Broadway show The Odd Couple, Murray in this film resembles another famous grouch, namely Oscar in that show, only a bit more edgy. Vincent has issues, indeed quite a few of them. For one thing his wife Sandy is in a home for those with Alzheimer’s and she thinks Vincent is her doctor, not her husband. For another thing, he is yet another rather abandoned Vietnam Vet who had won a Bronze Star in the war and was promptly forgotten, because America did not want to remember yet another war we lost, and it seldom honored its veterans. It still doesn’t. Vincent is simply wasting away in Brooklyn visiting his favorite bar, race track, and a favorite strip club (which produces his relationship with Dacha a ‘lady of the night’ played impressively by Naomi Watts), and very religiously visiting his wife whom he still loves.
Enter the new neighbor played by one of my least favorite actresses Melissa McCarthy….who plays it straight and is actually excellent in this film. She’s not obnoxious, not rude, but rather a vulnerable divorced woman trying to raise her adopted son Oliver. Who knew she could do this? And the kid is excellent as well, as is his Irish Catholic school teacher played by Chris O’Dowd.
If you need a good laugh or cry, you could do worse than going to see a flawed movie about a flawed saint based on the not so flawed theory that human redemption is possible. You might even learn how to love your neighbor as yourself a bit better too!