Bill Murray's latest is a likeable mix of crabby and cute, co-starring Naomi Watts
Bill Murray is certainly no stranger to misanthropic sad-sacks and his titular Vincent is one such crabby feller, albeit with a slightly coarser edge. A shadow of his former self, Vincent is given a crack at redemption when a young boy in need of a father figure moves in next door. Debut writer-director Theodore Melfi proves a dab hand at comedy but undermines his film's lively characterisations by careening toward cliché.
Brooklyn-born Vincent is a war hero turned drunkard, living a squalid, lonely and bad-tempered existence in suburban New York State. When his dinky neighbour Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) has his latchkey snatched by bullies a reluctant Vincent takes him in. The mutual desperation of Vincent and Oliver's mother Maggie (an emotionally affecting Melissa McCarthy) leads to Vincent becoming Oliver's regular babysitter and he schools him in his own inimitable way - teaching him to gamble, and taking him to a dive-bar.
This is a commercially ambitious indie comedy and, given that, Lieberher and Murray make for an appropriately inappropriate double-act, with Lieberher bringing to the table believability and the right amount of cute. In support, Chris O'Dowd features as an amusingly blunt priest and Naomi Watts reminds us of her comedic skills – which were wasted in Movie 43 and accidentally employed in Diana. She's a hoot as Daka, an Eastern European prostitute/pole-dancer whose pregnancy is having a negative impact on her trade; it's a role that tends heavily toward stereotype but still fits in nicely with this rag-tag ensemble.
For the most part St Vincent is sweet and salty in near equal measure, but that it culminates in such an overtly Hollywood celebration of imperfection tips the balance. The neat, conventionally tear-jerking finale feels out of sorts with an endearingly dog-eared, scrappy film that puts up its dukes for outsiders and is at its best when showcasing its leftfield, lower-key charms.
General release from Fri 5 Dec.