One of the more difficult aspects of my love of reviewing media is realizing that sometimes, simply by the nature of what I choose to write about, that I will have to explain the plot of the thing I am talking about. Usually, this only leads me to wondering for a few minutes how to accomplish that without enraging the dreaded spoiler police. Then I am faced with a movie like St. Vincent and I am faced with a whole new conundrum, explaining the plot of a film that doesn’t even pretend to really have one.
St Vincent strives to be one of those “slice of life” movies, a movie that shows the audience a window into a person’s life over a period of time without really having any kind of plot per se. In this case we have Vincent (Bill Murray) bonding with new neighbor Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and how that friendship affects both of their lives. Vincent is a hard drinking, gambling, womanizing, general terrible person while Oliver is a 10-year-old kid. Everything about their friendship is wrong and shouldn’t work, but they (as often happen with these types of films) really impact each other’s lives in surprising ways.
Murray plays a man that you are supposed to hate. He is disgusting, conniving, and basically terrible. He plays the part so convincingly that you almost believe that he isn’t acting – the mark of a brilliant performance, believability. Murray has grown into a brilliant actor in the last 12 years. While his comedic talent has never been in doubt, 2003’s Lost in Translation really cemented him as force to be reckoned with in other genres. Lieberher is already a veteran actor at his young age but has the rare ability to act against powerhouses and not only hold his own but use his performance to add layers to his scene partner’s portrayal. These 2 together are magnetic, and their relationship is a joy to watch.
So good are their scenes that Melissa McCarthy, as Oliver’s mom, Naomi Watts, as Murray’s regular hooker, and Chris O’Dowd, as Oliver’s teacher, are given little to nothing to really do in this movie other than act as set pieces for the other two. As an aside, Watts’ character, Daka, is a Russian (or Russian-esque) character for no reason other than making an accomplished actress fake a terrible accent. Watts is already Australian, and there is no reason in the script that Daka needed to be Eastern European (Ukrainian maybe?) she could have just as easily been Australian for as much as her culture impacts her character. Actors being forced to fake accents for no logical reason is a pet peeve of mine. The United States is a diverse place and people in all walks of life in all corners of the country have all sorts of accents. Unless there is a compelling script reason that the character must be from “country x” let them use their real voice.
It’s hard to say anything bad about this movie. Yes, the pacing lags in spots and maybe it takes a little too long to make the point it tries to make. But, that doesn’t really run the enjoyment of the fantastic performances by Murray and Lieberher. A