by Byron BixlerSt. Vincent? They should have called it “For Your Consideration”. Well, no, actually that wouldn’t do. Christopher Guest already took that title. How about “Cliches: The Movie”? Or “Heartstrings: We’re Yanking on Yours”? Or maybe just good ole “Cloying Bullshit”? There we go. Simple and to the point.
Seriously, though, St. Vincent is terrible and I mean actually terrible — not just Oscar bait that kinda failed and comes off as mediocre, but genuinely stomach-turning in its unapologetic, unearned sentiment. I could go scene by scene breaking down the cliches and lazy writing choices, but let’s just go with the most basic parts.
So, on one level, we have Vincent (Bill Murray), a grumpy old man who doesn’t like anyone and drinks and smokes to excess, cursing without regard for those around him, etc. His new neighbors are a single mother (Melissa McCarthy) who works long, hard nights at the hospital trying to support herself and her son (a scrawny little kid of above-average maturity for his age). He gets pushed around by the kids at his school and lacks a consistently present father figure in his life. Somehow, Vincent finds himself babysitting the kid (begrudgingly, of course). He eventually warms to the boy, teaching him how to stand up to the bullies and giving him a real-life education on how the world works. In return, the kid helps the curmudgeon learn about himself, blah blah blah. You know the rest.
Well, the thing is, that premise just wasn’t enough for the writer of this film. There’s also the fact that the mother is going through a tough divorce with an asshole who wants to take custody of the kid just to hurt her… AND the kid’s adopted… AND Vincent is hiding away a secret pain that he doesn’t want to share with other people…his wife is ill and staying in a nursing home (Guess what happens to her!)… AND he’s a Vietnam war vet with a heroic secret… AND there’s a pregnant Russian hooker/stripper (with a heart of gold, of course) that he’s supporting…AND Vincent is low on money and behind on payments to the nursing home…AND he’s got some shady gangster/gambler/lone shark/whatever he is (Terrence Howard sleepwalking through a bizarrely muted and thankless role) shaking him down for the cash he owes…AND Vincent suffers a stroke.
But, wait! It’s not over yet! The kid has a school project in which he has to talk about a saint that he knows in his everyday life (Guess who he picks!) and gives a big, protracted, syrupy speech at the end about how great the old man is despite his unsavory demeanor. Oh, and the kid befriends the child who bullied him – a turn of events that would never happen in real life. I generally recoil at overly optimistic feel-good indie dramedies like this one and you can call me cold-hearted, but this goes beyond just being “sweet.” It’s suffocating, pointless, mawkish garbage held up only by the apparent investment of its actors (Murray & McCarthy are good, Watts is terrible) and one or two clever lines.
Making matters worse, this is nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s Bad Santa. It’s About a Boy. It’s Little Miss Sunshine. It’s even Gran Torino if Gran Torino had 90% less racism, 90% less grey and a protagonist with lower hanging pants. Hell, it’s even The Grinch — right down to the idiosyncratic pet!
What else to gripe about? Why plenty! You think I’m finished yet? Endlessly predictable plot. Lots of exposition. Forced emotion. Obvious character beats. At least two unnecessary and unresolved subplots… I could go on.
I dearly wish this could have been bland, middle of the road fare like say, Philomena. At least I would be able to forget about it. In the case of St. Vincent, though, it would take something mighty to wash the taste of this pandering nonsense out of your mouth.