Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking, mature themes and substance abuse
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Almost nothing is right in Vincent MacKenna’s (Bill Murray) life. The aging, Vietnam War vet is still suffering from PTSD. Plus, he’s fighting a losing battle against booze, cigarettes and gambling, which has left him deeply indebted to a vicious loan shark (Terrence Howard).
In fact, Zucko is threatening to break Vincent’s kneecaps if he doesn’t come up with the cash in a couple weeks. Trouble is the miserable misanthrope doesn’t have a friend in the world, unless you count Daka (Naomi Watts), the pregnant prostitute he befriended at a neighborhood strip club. Unfortunately, Vincent can come up with no better solution to his money woes than wagering on long shots at his favorite haunt, Belmont race track.
Meanwhile, he’s also concerned about his wife, Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past eight years. He still visits her regularly at the elderly care facility, despite the fact that she no longer recognizes him.
The last thing you’d think Vincent might need would be a new, next-door neighbor who’s more of a burden than a help. But, that’s just what he gets in Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) a single-mom desperate enough for a babysitter that she’s willing to let him babysit her latchkey kid.
Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) attends Catholic school where the pint-sized 12-year-old is picked on by bullies. This makes the boy a prime candidate for the sort of toughening Vincent has to offer, lessons on everything from boxing to betting.
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, “St. Vincent” is a bittersweet, unlikely-buddies flick which works more in terms of comedy than drama. There’s something a tad unconvincing about the ambitious adventure’s sentimental side.
The film has one glaring flaw, a rushed feeling resulting from the introduction of more plotlines than it has time to develop fully. So, when it asks us to empathize with this or that character’s plight, or to buy into the heartwarming resolution, there’s simply not much of a wellspring of emotion forthcoming.
Nevertheless, “St. Vincent” does work when going for the joke, especially Bill Murray’s tongue-in-cheek brand of humor. He’s in rare form, here, as an irascible curmudgeon who exhibits an endearing vulnerability for the sake of an at-risk tween in need of a father figure.