DVD Review: St. Vincent (USA, 2014)

st vincent

Initially, St. Vincent may seem like a rather bland story, and it’s far from the most original idea. Take a grumpy, cynical aging man who lives on his own and gradually dig into his heart by way of teaming him up with the endearing 10 year old boy who he is roped into babysitting. A bit uninspired, right? Well, that’s why you need to cast Bill Murray as that aging man (Vincent MacKenna), and capable child actor Jaeden Liebeher as that kid (Oliver), while throwing Melissa McCarthy (Maggie) and Naomi Watts (Daka) into the mix. Not only does St. Vincent show that great acting turns even the most familiar script into something incredibly original and surprisingly emotional, but it allows us to witness one of Murray’s most memorable performances in years.

We start with Murray showing off a little dark humour as he goes about his everyday life, with the plot establishing him as an archetypal’grumpy old man’. Sardonic and indiscriminate with his rage, we are treated to only the knowledge that he is in debt to a big, bad Terrance Howard and has some kind of friendly relationship with a Russian prostitute named Daka (Watts). Watts performance, while good enough, can only do so much to put forth a one-dimensional, over-the-top character that seems inserted into the plot to tug some nuance out of Vincent. Most of the tugging though comes via Oliver, who shares incredible on screen chemistry with Murray’s character. There scenes together are incredibly enjoyable, making up for a few other dull scenes of exposition and necessary plot-setting.

Jaeden Liebeher doesn’t have that slightly annoying overacting that many child actors suffer from, instead he brings a simple wide-eyed innocence to his character, lending greatly to the most emotionally impacting scenes and bringing out some great sides of Murray. This is all thanks to Nancy, who thrusts these two unlikely friends together because she needs to find Oliver a babysitter, and Vincent needs money anyway he can get it. Though, Vincent is a less then ideal babysitter who spills his bitterness over into his time with Oliver.

McCarthy holds up another strong performance here as Maggie, toning down her funnier side and bringing out the dramatic, nuanced actress she lends to the fairly standard hard-working single mother character.

While Vincent’s heartwarming side is slow to surface, Murray portrays his character with such restrained depth that the big emotional payoff at the end would simply not have worked if it would have been any other actor. An increasingly interesting run of dialogue is also largely responsible for the film’s quality here, whereas scenes between characters at the start of the movie begin to show a weakness in the script, there’s a big improvement as the running time wears thin and we’re left with a scene that, while predictable, will probably be enough to bring a few tears of happiness to your eyes as Oliver – like all children archetypes in these movies – shows us that all it takes to bring the light out of the dark is unconditional love.

Film Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

On the DVD release of the film there’s a few trailers in there, about 10 minutes of deleted scenes and a twenty minute making-of featurette, which is definitely the highlight of the extra additions. The focus of the featurette takes us to the premiere of the film at the Toronto Film Festival, while highlighting all the genius that is Bill Murray. We even get a glimpse at what Bill had to say at the Ghostbusters anniversary screening at the same festival. But where’s the commentary? A blooper reel? Definitely sitting on the average mark in terms of offerings here.

Special Features Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

St Vincent is released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia on Thursday, April 29th. Film review by Chris Singh. Special Features Review by Larry Heath.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.