St. Vincent

St. Vincent

2014, PG-13, 103 min. Directed by Theodore Melfi. Starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Ann Dowd, Dario Barosso, Donna Mitchell.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 17, 2014

Although playing the unabashed curmudgeon next door is the kind of thing Bill Murray could do in his sleep, this treasured actor instead brings everything he has to the role of Vincent MacKenna. In fact, all the actors in St. Vincent are at their best here, and manage to keep this crowd-pleasing comedy buoyant, even while it sails through some sappy waters. The sap perhaps compensates for St. Vincent’s darker edges, which frame the film to an extent uncommon for a comedy.

Vincent is a character who’s not too unlike how we imagine the real Bill Murray to be. Boozing, smoking, gambling, indecorously dressed, always conniving for some extra bucks, and gliding eccentrically through life, Vincent is nevertheless well-liked by almost everyone except his bartender and bookie. Yet Murray drills down into the role and finds the soul at the heart of the caricature. The story kicks into gear when new neighbors – Maggie (McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Lieberher) – move into the house next door to Vincent in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Oliver is a puny kid who is bullied by the kids at his new school – a parochial school at which the saints are still studied under the jocular yet firm guidance of his teacher (O’Dowd). A newly single mom, Maggie works late hours, and the grouch next door quickly becomes Oliver’s after-school babysitter (for pay, of course). Among other things, Vincent teaches Oliver some self-defense moves, takes him to the track and his bar, and lets him hang out with Daka (Watts), Vincent’s pregnant, pole-dancing, thickly Russian-accented girlfriend and lady of the evening.

Newcomer Lieberher is a great foil for Murray, usually calling Vincent “sir” and never devolving into cute childlike maneuvers. McCarthy, for a change, gets to play a straightforward character instead of clown, and the shift pays off beautifully. Watts, who hasn’t always scored well with comedy, is quite funny as the over-the-top Daka. First-time feature writer and director Theodore Melfi appears to have a nice way with actors, and should be able to continue on this path as long as he regulates his cynicism-to-schmaltz levels. If you scratch the surface too deeply, a few things might not ring true, but there’s no greater pleasure to be had than the film’s opening and closing sequences during which Murray, alone on the screen, dances, then sings along to the music coming through his headphones.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More St. Vincent
Showcasing New Persona, St. Vincent Astounds in Austin City Limits Taping
Showcasing New Persona, St. Vincent Astounds in Austin City Limits Taping
Daddy's home and ready to rock ACL Fest

David Brendan Hall, Oct. 1, 2021

ACL Live Review: St. Vincent
Live Shot: St. Vincent
yes I said yes I will Yes

Abby Johnston, Oct. 7, 2018

More St. Vincent
The compassion of St. Vincent

Abby Johnston, Oct. 10, 2014

ACL Fest 2014 Interviews
St. Vincent
5:15pm, RetailMeNot stage

Abby Johnston, Oct. 3, 2014

More Theodore Melfi Films
Hidden Figures
True story of NASA's black women mathematicians

Marjorie Baumgarten, Jan. 6, 2017

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
Love means never having to flip to the B side

March 16, 2024

SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
A Hollywood garden party unearths certain truths

March 12, 2024


St. Vincent, Theodore Melfi, Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Ann Dowd, Dario Barosso, Donna Mitchell

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle