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Catholic Movie Reviews: St. Vincent


MPAA Rating

Life Teen Rating

Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking

Strictly for adults, St. Vincent is basically Gran Torino mixed with About a Boy; but with less glorified machismo than the former, and more genuine pathos than the latter. The characters are finely crafted even while the plot meanders about in search of a thematic hook worthy of its performances.

Bill Murray is in rare form as a crusty misanthrope Vincent who begrudgingly befriends his new 12 year-old precocious neighbor Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) whose single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) works long hours as a lab technician to make ends meet.

The performances are splendid all around. Naomi Watts adds some additional comedic relief as a blunt Russian prostitute who takes pity on sad-sack Vincent even while he’s costing her money.

If the formula seems simple and familiar it’s because it is. The old Scrooge encounters wide-eyed innocence in need of help and slowly opens his heart to friendship. Along the way, the old Scrooge slowly reveals how past trauma has made him so… scroogy. It’s easy to guess who ends up helping who the most.

Writer-director Theodore Melfi smartly lets his script and the cast do most of the heavy lifting. There are moments of visual flair, but they never steal center stage from the characters. All the major emotional beats are right on target.

This is a memorable film. And that’s a significant accomplishment considering the deluge of recent mediocrity.

What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie

Despite the quality of the production, St. Vincent seriously misses the mark as a morality tale. Vincent is basically a self-absorbed human being, with some serious vices, who occasionally does a few things right. He is a completely believable and empathetic character, but not a role model; and definitely not a saint.

The way Vincent is honored in the end is emotionally moving but also demeaning to real saints; let alone people who live thoroughly decent lives.

There is a throwaway moment by the end where Vincent shows hope of real change. It is too little, too late to justify the central message. This is a film only for adults with well-formed consciences.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie

For a PG-13 film, there is quite a bit of rough language. There is also a short and reasonably discreet sex scene involving an affair with a prostitute. There are two scenes in a strip club where the dancers are scantily clad. Vincent drinks and smokes heavily and continuously throughout the film, and drives drunk at one point — damaging his property. He steals and sells prescription drugs, treats other serious theft casually, and lies like it’s going out of style. He is also addicted to gambling.

Although Vincent goes through some profound internal revelations by the end, there is little evidence that he regrets his years of debauchery or is committed to lasting change.

There is a priest who teaches at Oliver’s school who essentially serves as the mouthpiece for the films major themes. He is a likeable and generally upstanding character, but says several things that are on theologically shaky ground and suggest his Catholic faith is not the true foundation of his worldview.

That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments

Bill Murray is scarily likeable, even while being completely despicable. I guess that’s why he has a career.

I love the attention to wardrobe and production design to make Vincent come to life as a crazy, crusty, eccentric loner.

That one kid at the gym next to Oliver did not do a real pull-up! That bothers me more than it should.

Melissa McCarthy continues to impress me.

Vincent’s car is my favorite character in the film. Wood paneling!

About the Author

Ryan O'Connell

After a hard day of work, I look forward to a little exercise, some blues guitar, and a moving-picture creation by my ex-employer and fickle lover, Hollywood. I’m also a fan of basketball, sketch comedy, and vigorously defending my beliefs using this academic gimmick called “truth.” God has blessed me with the most loyal friends a guy could ask for, and a disturbing inability to not laugh at stupid jokes.

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