Nominated both for Best picture and best actor (musical or comedy in both cases) at this year’s Golden Globes, St. Vincent stars Bill Murray as a lonely old alcoholic who just wants to be left alone until, needing the money, he takes a job as a 10 year-old kid’s babysitter. During their time together, Bill introduces him to a lady of the night, teaches him how to fight and gamble, and takes him to a bar. The two also develop an unexpected (at least to each other) bond while we ponder the true meaning of sainthood.
There’s almost nothing in the script or the direction that deserve the charm or emotional payoff of the finished product. The credit really has to go to the actors. The kid, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is too smart and grown up. The kind you only see in movies. But played by Lieberher, we can almost believe it. I don’t know where they found this kid but the way he plays Oliver as a kid learning to be more comfortable in his own skin is believable even if the lines he has to read aren’t. His troubles fitting in at his new school should be a chore we have to sit through while we wait for more misbehaviour with Murray but, because Chris O’Dowd is so likable as his teacher, they are some of my favourites in the whole movie. Melissa McCarthy as Oliver’s mom plays it refreshingly straight.
But none of this would be nearly enough if not for Bill Murray. At this point in his career, Murray can play sad and aging with about as much effort as it takes Morgan Freeman to play old and wise or Johnny Depp to play Jack Sparrow but in the last half of the movie, he even shows aspects of his talent that we haven’t really got to see yet. It’s a performance that makes his Best Actor nomination a no-brainer, even if the Best Picture nomination is bizarre. I blame Murray for the lump in my throat I had at the end, with emotions that this script just didn’t earn.
See Jay’s review of St. Vincent.