Unlikely friendships that fill the gaps in one’s life are storylines that we have seen time and time again in movies (About a Boy, Up!, to name a few). St. Vincent, however, deals with that familiar storyline from a more personal, and thoughtful perspective, by delving in to the personal traumas that ultimately bring these characters together, without employ various comedic elements to sugarcoat the serious issues that haunt the characters’ lives. St. Vincent can be viewed as a dark comedy, as the relationships that develop (especially between Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher) are meant to bring happiness into the characters’ often tumultuous daily lives.
Although the premise of the film carried the familiar themes of a family comedy, St. Vincent provided a new twist on the genre with its flawed but well meaning protagonist played to perfection by Bill Murray; he played an old and bitter alcoholic whose money problems may soon bring an end to the carefree lifestyle he enjoys. In the midst of his in-debt crisis, he befriended Oliver, a young boy who has just moved in next door with his mother after following his parents’ rather messy divorce (played by Jaeden Lieberher and Mellissa McCarthy, respectively). This unlikely friendship brought both individuals the comfort and support that they had been lacking within their chaotic lives.
Writer/director Theodore Melfi constructed the plot of his first mainstream film in an episodic structure, focusing on the incidents within both Vincent and Oliver’s day-to-day lives, slowly revealing the details that defined the personalities of the characters and the challenges that they faced. The family difficulties that the characters face are never fully resolved, but this contributed to the bonds developed between the characters, as their personal struggles assisted in the development of their initial association.
The ultimate success of this film should be credited to Bill Murray. The attitude and flamboyant personality that he brought to his role prevented this film from being yet another addition to the typical family dramas that claim to be more ‘original’ than those which preceded them. Bill Murray was born to play the title character. Although he is known for playing comedic roles that primarily feature him as the cocky, careless slacker, Bill Murray is nevertheless one of the most talented actors of all time. His ability to play both the dramatic and comedic roles within the same film demonstrates his full potential as an actor, and certainly deserving of Oscar recognition. Bill Murray brings forth a personality to his character that goes beyond what is given in the script. His iconic slacker personality was taken to a whole new level as he was able to simultaneously display the inner-sadness that Vincent sometimes could not hide despite his best efforts.
However, despite the fact that Bill Murray was ultimately what led to the film’s success, the supporting cast delivered memorable performances as well which made this motley crew of characters an ultimately likeable group of friends. Jaeden Lieberher was hardly overshadowed by Murray, as he was able to bring a naïve brand of humor to the film through his performance as the “new kid in town”. Melissa McCarthy also stood out as the well-meaning mother whose marital problems and overbearing job had brought more complications into her son’s life than she ever intended. The fourth member, played by Naomi Watts, was Vincent’s stripper associate/friend. She was primarily the comic relief in the film, but nevertheless possessed just as much attitude as Murray when she called him out on his various personality quirks.
Overall, St. Vincent was an enjoyable dark comedy that provided a serious twist on the family drama. And even for those who do not care for genres of this nature, Bill Murray is always as good enough of a reason to see this film.