The Hippo


Jun 1, 2020








St. Vincent

St. Vincent (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

St. Vincent (PG-13)

A boy befriends the grump next door in the surprisingly sweet St. Vincent.
How sweet? Except for the loan shark and the Russian prostitute, it’s almost a family movie.
Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaden Lieberher) do not have a great first meeting with their neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray). When the moving company bringing Maggie’s belongings knocks a branch off Vincent’s tree, he tries to get Maggie to compensate him both for the tree, somehow, and for the fence that he knocked over driving his car home drunk from a bar the night before. Overwhelmed by her new life circumstance — she’s in the new house, about to start a new job and doing it all as a single mom after a bad break-up with her husband — Maggie agrees but soon finds herself forced to deal with Vincent again. On his first day at a new Catholic school, Oliver gets his uniform (along with his wallet, phone and keys) stolen in gym. Forced to walk home in his gym clothes, Oliver goes to Vincent to borrow the phone to call his mom, who then asks Vincent to watch Oliver while she finishes her shift. Vincent is not thrilled with having some kid in his house, even if Oliver does seem to have a way with Vincent’s equally grumpy cat, but he does like the idea of getting money in exchange for keeping this relatively self-sufficient kid alive. 
And Vincent could use some money. Exterior shots of his house and Maggie’s house look like before and after side-by-sides on some extreme renovation show. The interior of his house is even worse — flop houses in crime shows frequently look cleaner. Vincent’s wardrobe is dinge-toned and worn-for-three-days wrinkledness. What little money he has left from a now-closed reverse mortgage line of credit he seems to drink away at a dive bar — well, what little money he has after visits to the race track. And even in gambling he’s overdrawn, with a loan shark named Zucko (Terrence Howard) looking to collect a few thousand dollars he doesn’t have.
Slowly, though, we learn why Vincent’s finances are in such a pit and why he acts like a man whose life is entirely joy-free, even while he’s receiving the services of Daka (Naomi Watts), the very pregnant woman who, he tells Oliver, is a lady of the night. Despite Vincent’s heartbreak, despite his curmudgeonlyness, Vincent, perhaps even in spite of himself, grows attached to and feels responsible for, in his own way, the people around him. 
The movie’s overall tone, along with a subplot about Brother Gregory (Chris O’Dowd), a teacher at Oliver’s Catholic school who teaches the class about saints, reminded me a lot of Millions, a very sweet Danny Boyle movie from 2004. I’d urge you to watch that movie (and this one) yourself before deciding what age your kids should be when you add it in to family movie night (maybe mature tweens? or young teens?) but overall there is a warm, snuggly, pro-family, all-be-it unconventional family, message in the movie. The movie, of course, also calls to mind About A Boy, though the Bill Murray character is ultimately, weirdly, a more loveable guy than the Hugh Grant character.  
Of course, isn’t the Bill Murray character pretty much always more interesting than anybody else? Murray here stays true to form by bringing pathos even to the more comic parts of the performance but a nice tartness to his sweeter moments. 
Though she is decidedly a supporting character, McCarthy’s performance is solid too. It’s nice — though I mean that in the good way. It’s not the brash comedy performance she’s made her name with (though many of those are great) and it’s not some one-note, well, saint. She gets to play a woman with admirable qualities and flaws and a nice humanity that she’s able to bring to the screen even. 
I’m not sure what I went in to St. Vincent expecting but I felt surprised by the movie somehow — surprised by how sweet and kind it was, surprised that it was funny in spite of that and surprised at how well all its pieces fit together. B
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, St. Vincent is an hour and 42 minutes long and is distributed by The Weinstein Company.  

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