Reviewing: St. Vincent

* Disclaimer: I am in the middle of planning for a Big Event happening this weekend, so posts may be a bit varied right now (hence the missed post yesterday.) I will do my best!

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This year I decided to make a concerted effort to watch as many movies and TV shows on my Netflix list as I can before they disappear from the queue. Granted, I discover a new interest every time I’m on Netflix, so I guess the to-watch list (just like my to-read list) is never-ending. But that’s good news for this blog right?

I’m also trying to watch newer movies on a relatively timely schedule, but given the aforementioned Big Event, I will focus on this more later.

So, last night I settled in on our memory-foam futon with an upset stomach, aching back and lots of pillows. It hadn’t been a very good day, so I wanted a story I could get lost in and that would lift my spirits a bit (read: get me out of my pity party.) Basically I was looking for one of those off-beat, feel-good movies similar to the ones I talked about when reviewing The Fundamentals of Caring.

And this movie definitely delivered.

*Potential spoilers ahead.

St. Vincent is an extremely honest story about the relationships that form between people facing adversity in many forms, but mostly financial burdens. The movie introduces us to Vincent, a Vietnam-War veteran who is trapped in a spiral of alcoholism and financial trouble. Maggie is now a single mom who left her husband after he cheated on her repeatedly. She and her son Oliver move in next door to Vincent with their own set of financial problems. Throughout the movie, Vincent and Oliver become friends  and Oliver learns that Vincent is more compassionate and giving than the abrasive drunk he initially appears to be.

The main focus of this movie, on the surface, seems to be money. We see Vincent attempting to save his house (which he can no longer afford), attempting to close his bank account (which is overdrawn), gambling, paying for sex and drinking at the bar each night. Unfortunately, I think this is a common situation among veterans and is an honest depiction of a cruel reality. Director Theodore Melfi does not sugarcoat and I appreciate it. We also see the realities of life in Maggie, who must work late hours at the hospital to start making and saving money after years of relying on her husband’s paycheck. And then there’s Oliver, who is attending a new, religious middle school where he is bullied throughout his first months there.

In the beginning, I honestly didn’t know if things would get better. I usually hate movies so focused on financial trouble because it gives me lots of anxiety over my own finances. However, the film soon shifts to the blooming relationship between Vincent and Oliver, when Vincent watches Oliver after he gets locked out of the house. Although the relationship begins as a self-serving deed, Vincent begins to care for the tiny family and teaches Oliver how to be confident, brave and to stand up for himself. Oliver also learns what it truly means to be a saint through Vincent, although Vincent doesn’t realize these things in himself.

First of all, I love Oliver. He is such a sweet, well-spoken kid (he calls everyone sir or ma’am) and he is so polite. I can only hope any kids I may have are like this.

Second of all, I really love Bill Murray. He is such a wonderful actor and he brings such vibrant personality to each of his characters and it is always a joy to watch him. St. Vincent was no exception. While I have never seen Murray in such an angry and abrasive role, (and it took me a second to accept him as such) he did a wonderful job, while still bringing his classic humor to the film. Also, his dancing. So majestic.

Now, these two are a classic, unlikely pair. But Oliver’s overt politeness contrasts so well with Vincent that it just seems to work. I love their little adventures, especially when we learn about Vincent’s wife, who is in a senior living facility due to some sort of dementia. Here, we really see Vincent’s sweet, caring side. We also see this develop throughout the film in Vincent’s relationship with Daka, a pregnant prostitute who Vincent sees weekly.

While it is apparent where the film will end — with Oliver’s project honoring Vincent as a modern-day saint — it was still overwhelmingly sweet and I cried a bit. Despite the films intense focus on money, we see Vincent’s underlying purpose in that obsession as simply a vehicle for doing good for others in his life.

The only thing I didn’t really buy about this movie was Melissa McCarthy as Maggie. I love McCarthy to death, but I think she is suited for more vibrant characters than simply a down-on-her-luck, single mother. She did a good job, it just didn’t fit for me.

I really loved this movie and it did make me feel better. Mission accomplished. I would give this movie five stars (consistent with the Netflix rating) and would definitely recommend it to everyone.

What did you think of St. Vincent? What are your favorite Bill Murray roles? Who would you consider to be a modern-day saint in your life? Let’s talk.

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