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St. Vincent is the type of film that just screams indie cuteness. There’s the old man and the young, impressionable child that grow through questionable friendship. There’s the quirky cast of characters, like a Catholic priest who could have a side career as a stand-up comedian or the pregnant stripper/hooker with an over-the-top accent. There’s even the soundtrack with artists like Wilco and The National, not to mention the movie’s title that wouldn’t make it surprising if Annie Clark just popped up. Even though St. Vincent is predictable and just straddling the line of “okay,” it’s the cast that makes it all worthwhile.

Vincent (Bill Murray) is a Vietnam veteran who drinks his days away, occasionally taking breaks for the horse track and to spend time with his pregnant stripper sort-of-girlfriend Daka (Naomi Watts). His life is disrupted by his two new neighbors Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), who are starting their lives over after Maggie discovered her husband was cheating on her with multiple women. Since Maggie works long hours, Vincent becomes Oliver’s babysitter due to simplicity rather than common sense.

As these movies usually go, Vincent isn’t a great role model to Oliver, taking him to his usual bar and teaching him how to gamble, but in doing so, Oliver does find a de facto father figure and they both evolve because of their interaction.

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St. Vincent’s plot goes in some obvious places that are foreseeable from the first act. For example, Oliver’s teacher at his Catholic school makes the class prepare for a project in which the students pick a person in their everyday life that has the makings of a modern day saint. If you’ve read the title of the film, I’m pretty sure you can guess who Oliver picks.

But it’s the places where St. Vincent surprises – thanks in large part to its cast – where the film shines. Murray is excellent as Vincent, maybe his best performance since Moonrise Kingdom or possibly even Broken Flowers. Vincent often goes to visit his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, at a expensive nursing home. While there, it’s not so much his actions that make Vincent likable, but the small looks of pure love he gives the woman that is fading through his fingertips. It’s these tiny moments that Murray makes look effortless and brings a level of beauty to St. Vincent that would be lacking with someone else.

Also fantastic is newcomer Lieberher as Oliver, who is played with an intelligence and just the right amount of innocence. He’s smart enough to know that spending time with Vincent probably isn’t a great idea, but clever enough to know that having Vincent in his life will make things far more interesting for him.

The supporting cast here doesn’t have quite enough to do, but each adds a certain level of depth to what story they are given. It’s great to see McCarthy un a role with some emotional heft, rather than the clumsy goof roles she’s been fond of lately. Watts is clearly just having fun as Daka, as is Chris O’Dowd as Oliver’s teacher Brother Geraghty. Most unfortunately given the least amount to do is Terrence Howard as Zucko, a debt collector that isn’t fond of the force he’ll have to use against the debt-ridden Vincent.

The bonds created between these characters and the actors playing them makes St. Vincent far more interesting than what writer-director Ted Melfi is doing with his script or his camera. Melfi doesn’t really go that far out of well-trod territory, but does a decent job with his material.

At times, St. Vincent is certainly cheesy and sappy with its material, but Murray, McCarthy and Lieberher take what they’re given and elevate the film with their interplay and often touching moments. St. Vincent isn’t exactly a remarkable movie, but a nice atmosphere for its actors to do some fine emotional work that plays to their strengths.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duZJnlpnmCQ
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