TIFF 2014: St. Vincent – Film Review

Director: Theodore Melfi
Actors: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd
Writer: Theodore Melfi
Country: USA
Rating: PG
Runtime: 103 min

It is very rare to find a film wherein every joke prompts a laugh and every emotional moment a tug at the heartstrings. St Vincent is one of those works that hits every single mark. Brought to us by first time director Theodore Melfi and boasting a stellar cast, here is a film that allows each of its talented actors to shine. Even the cast members themselves were highly affected by their viewing at the world premier of this movie, as undoubtedly will be every person who has the pleasure of viewing it.

St. Vincent

Grumpy retiree Vincent (the always incredible Bill Murray) is less than thrilled when single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door. When Vincent finds himself working as Oliver’s unlikely babysitter, however, the two form an unlikely yet meaningful friendship. Vincent may be teaching Oliver how to fight, swear, and gamble, but Oliver is learning about the many different sides of this complicated man and what it means to be a real life saint in a way that his religion class will never be able to teach him.

It is undoubtedly impressive that a debut director was able to assemble such a cast as the one that Melfi brought together for this work. Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy both surprise in the types of roles in which we are unused to seeing them; while McCarthy proves her solid dramatic acting chops, Watts creates hilarity in her over-the-top representation of a Russian prostitute who is also Vincent’s best friend. Young actor Jaeden Lieberher spends much of the film interacting with Murray, and meets this screen legend shot for shot with an impeccable sense of comedic timing. This film unquestioningly belongs to Murray, however. Murray’s every action – even those as simple as walking through a queue line in a bank – is enough to prompt laughter. The wit of this actor is as dry as a bone, yet he somehow manages to make even the cantankerous Vincent a loveable and sympathetic character who is sure to be added to Murray’s prolific list of unforgettable representations.

St. Vincent

This film opens with a joke and doesn’t let up, integrating humor into even the most touching and emotional scenes. Although it is not entirely comedic, the movie maintains a wonderful tone of good will, even through the moments that make it as powerful as it is. In a question and answer period prior to the screening of the film, Murray claimed that the secret to his success is considering every moment an opportunity to be great. It appears as though Melfi himself took this advice to heart, as a highly reactive world premier audience received each scene he presented with great enthusiasm.

St. Vincent is destined to go down as a classic Bill Murray film, although there are many aspects beyond the lead actor that make this movie all that it is. Every actor in this film is given a chance to excel, and the chemistry between all of the characters and the truly beautiful relationships that they create are some of the factors that result in a true gem. Although the movie is very witty, it is also genuinely moving, and is about people pulling together and, ultimately, coming together. In short, here is a wonderful, funny, heartbreaking, damn near perfect film.