Have child actors gotten better? It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie with a child actor made me hate him for being so bad… apart for Joffrey of course, but that’s because he is so good at it.
“St. Vincent” is directed by Theodore Melfi and stars Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher, but mostly Bill Murray. The film follows the relationship between Oliver, a young boy who moves into a new neighbourhood with his mother, and Vincent, a misanthropic old war veteran, who becomes his babysitter, because his mother has to work long hours to support them both.
Bill Murray is the strong-point of this movie, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, being that he is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. The role of Vincent seems to be tailor-made for him, making full use of his dramatic range and perfect comedic timing. Also, it develops in a way that elevates it over similar characters, which put Murray in the awards conversation, even if he might not be up there for the big ones in a season that is as packed with great performances as this one is.
Also surprisingly good is Jaeden Lieberher as young Oliver, a kid who has to deal with his mother’s divorce, a new school and a new neighbourhood. Lieberher gives a likeable performance and at the same time manages to give the audience a way into Murray’s character, who could easily come off as unlikeable, considering the things he does throughout the movie. Another surprising performance comes from Naomi Watts as eastern European stripper/”dame of the night”. She steals most scenes she’s in and has amazing chemistry with Murray.
The one person I was worried about was McCarthy. She was incredibly funny in “Bridesmaids”, but since then, she has been doing the same thing Johnny Depp has done since he played Jack Sparrow and recycled that performance again and again. Only unlike Depp, she doesn’t have a gigantic filmography full of diverse performances to convince me that she is more than a one-trick-pony.
But maybe she really isn’t, because she is very good in St. Vincent. Instead of playing a scenery-chewing over-the-top femme fatale, she actually played a human being. While she is not the focus of the movie, she actually manages to bring out a lot of the emotion in her character in a short amount of time. It’s a performance I didn’t expect from her, and I was happy to see it.
The one problem I had with this movie is that, for most of the time, it’s absolutely predictable. I say “for most of the time”, because it does throw one very interesting curve-ball towards the end of the second act, but while that helps to elevate Murray’s performance, it doesn’t change the trajectory of the movie at all. It goes on to a by-the-numbers end. However, none of it is executed poorly in any way, and the finale was actually extremely touching, so this all falls into the category “minor gripes”.
Overall, first-time feature director Theodore Melfi managed to create a heartfelt movie with great performances and as I said, in a different year, Murray would have gotten a lot more attention for his role. As it’s still getting awards attention across the board, so I doubt anyone involved is losing any sleep about it.