Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard
In writer-director Theodore Melfi’s debut feature, Bill Murray turns back to the salty, misanthropic persona with which he made his name; his titular curmudgeon could easily be an endgame for Meatballs' Tripper or Ghostbusters' Venkman, had the booze and the bad times taken a firm hold. And it’s great fun watching him – as ever – as Vincent becomes reluctant babysitter to new neighbour Maggie’s (Melissa McCarthy) precocious but weedy son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher)… with utterly predictable results.
For as hackneyed as the ‘bullied kid has inappropriate surrogate father show him the ropes’ trope is, St. Vincent is at its strongest when Murray just gets to behave badly, and the talented Lieberher gets to develop some chutzpah of his own. It’s also a rare treat to see McCarthy do something other than the shooting gallery of slobby sociopaths she’s inflicted on cinema since Bridesmaids. But there’s a heavy-handedness to the third act that really lets these good bits down. Those hoping the title would remain subtle in its relevance, or perhaps even acidly ironic, are in for disappointment, as Melfi rams home his themes with a manipulative syrupiness. It’s a terrible denouement, but a very decent hour or so to get there.