So long George Bailey. Vince MacKenna’s is the new wonderful life; only this time there’s no angel, just a Catholic school kid who thinks he is Jewish.
Comic legend Bill Murray is Vince, a crusty old man who is about as welcoming to his new neighbors — single mom Melissa McCarthy and her boy Oliver — as was Clint Eastwood’s martyred Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino.”
McCarthy coerces him into babysitting the timid boy out of desperation, but in short time he becomes her permanent solution and Oliver’s surrogate goofball uncle, mentor, bodyguard and muse.
Out of necessity, Vince takes the boy along on errands that include pretending to be a convalescent home physician, picking the day’s losers at the racetrack and wooing his Russian hooker girlfriend Daka (Naomi Watts).
Over time, an indefatigable Oliver emerges but Vincent proves a tougher nut to crack.
In school, Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd at his best) is discussing saints and tasks the class with researching someone saintly with whom they are familiar. Oliver uses the occasion to investigate his neighbor more thoroughly before positing a case for the canonization of “St. Vincent” and the revelation inspires a transfiguration of sorts.
First time writer-director Theodore Melfi brings a fresh twist to a familiar plot. By all accounts, even his own, Vince leads a valueless aimless existence. But through Oliver’s eyes, he recognizes that he is worthy of happiness and therein finds a reborn zest for life.
Murray is at his best here, drawing equal doses of his trademark wry wit and convincing poignancy; he is precisely the old guy we expected him to grow into: sitting in his lawn chair listening to a vintage Walkman, cigarette and cocktail within grasp.
Though Murray does most of the heavy lifting, young Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver is the perfect complement. The boy is part protégé, part confederate, part sage. Theirs is a story that’s just fun to watch unfold.
McCarthy plays it more subtle, which is refreshing; but it is O’Dowd helming a nondenominational religion class that I found most memorable.
Sharp writing, a lot of heart and something original … the cinematic miracle I’ve been praying for.
Med-City Movie Guy’s rating: 4 Honks
Better put some Band-Aids on those mosquito bites
Though he’s played complicated roles from Polonius to FDR, Bill Murray is most entertaining when he snaps those quick little gems that in a few words sum-up his own character. See how many of these quotes you recognize (No Googling!) I’ll post the answers on the Med City Movie Guy Facebook page tomorrow.
“‘… When you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness,’ So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.”
“I don’t know where I am, really. I’m in a round room, the walls are white. Well, not white-white. More of a cream, or an eggshell. Vanilla. Yes, I’m going to say vanilla.”
“Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”
“I killed myself so many times I don’t even exist anymore.”
“For relaxing times … make it Suntory time.”
“It just doesn’t matter. I tell you, it just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!”
“Lee Harvey, you are a madman!
“That is one nutty hospital.”
“Your death therapy cured me, you genius!”
(Asked, “So do you have any regrets?”) “Garfield, maybe.”