Had it not been for the acting of its three leads, St. Vincent would have been merely a schmaltzy and utterly predictable, albeit uplifting, depiction of a grumpy old man’s helpful presence in the life of young boy in need of a father figure.
Luckily, Bill Murray comes to the rescue, along with Melissa McCarthy in her strongest performance to date and 10-year-old Jaeden Lieberher, who mostly avoids the trappings of playing a child character and comfortably conveys just the right amount of vulnerability and headstrongness to elicit our sympathies throughout.
Murray brings with him, as can be expected, great wit that smooths the rough edges of his misanthropic character, Vincent, whom very few people like and who likes even fewer.
Vincent lives alone in a house in Brooklyn, and in one of the first scenes of the film, after a moving company truck crashes into the tree on his front lawn and snaps a branch that lands on his car, he shows just how mean he can be as he verbalizes his seething rage to all within earshot. Of course, this is the moment when his new neighbors, Maggie (McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Lieberher), show up. There is no need to describe what the meeting is like.
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(Still of Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher in St. Vincent. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima – © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.)