Four out of five stars
"St. Vincent" isn’t a particularly complex story. In fact, it’s quite simple. Bill Murray's Vincent is a different story entirely.
While passed out on his kitchen floor, with a bruised and bloodied face to show for it, Vincent’s fortunes change when a moving van backs into his fence and breaks a branch off of a tree, damaging both. The van belongs to his new neighbors, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). While Vincent wants nothing to do with them, he does want money for the fence and tree.
Maggie’s having a tough time. She’s in the middle of a divorce and Oliver’s father is refusing to pay child support. She desperately wants Oliver to have a good education, so she decides to send him to a Catholic school, even though the young man is Jewish. Oliver returns from his first day of school to discover he’s locked out of the house, so he asks Vincent for help. The curmudgeonly alcoholic reluctantly lends a hand, and so begins the unlikely friendship at the heart of the movie -- and "St. Vincent" has a lot of heart.
This isn’t the most original story, but writer and first-time feature director Theodore Melfi does a beautiful job capturing the idiosyncrasies and latent hypocrisy of the human condition.
One of my favorite scenes involves Vincent weaving his way through the long velvet ropes and stanchions of an empty line inside his bank. Here’s a man who seems utterly self-absorbed, who doesn’t play well with others, abuses alcohol, sleeps with a pregnant prostitute and is in deep to a loan shark, yet here he follows the rules and walks the entirety of the empty bank line.
"St. Vincent" is the most complete performance of Bill Murray’s career. At first glance, Vincent feels like a familiar and predictable character, but Murray’s deft touch provides this protagonist with many complex layers. He doesn’t do it alone, though. He has a few terrific scenes with Watts but Murray’s best work comes with young Lieberher, a baby-faced 11-year-old who’s probably one of the more natural actors you‘ll see at that age.
Like Vincent himself, St. Vincent isn’t perfect, but Murray’s performance is.