A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although St. Vincent explores the unlikely -- and quite charming -- friendship between a crabby, rough-around-the-edges man named Vincent (Bill Murray) and his new neighbor, a kid named Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), it's not entirely heartwarming or kid-friendly. Vincent is an imperfect, maddening man who often swears ("s--t," "a--hole," etc., plus a use of "f--k") in front of Oliver, takes him to places unsuitable for kids (a bar, for one), and generally tests the bounds of conventional childcare. Expect plenty of scenes in which characters smoke, drink to excess (sometimes driving while impaired), and have sex (viewers don't see much beyond a woman in her underwear sitting atop a guy). There's also a scuffle between kids that ends in a bloody nose, and loan sharks who want to rough someone up. Oliver's parents are bitterly divorced.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Vincent (Bill Murray) is far from saintly in the conventional sense: He drinks like a fish, swears like a sailor (at everyone, even kids), and once even steals. He has a gambling problem, too, and a predilection for a certain pregnant prostitute (Naomi Watts). But when his new neighbor (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), move in next door, Vincent can't help but be roped into their lives, serving as a babysitter and ad-hoc male role model for the boy. But Oliver is no regular kid. Faced with the dismantling of his family -- thanks to his parents' bitter divorce -- he's a complicated, realistic kid looking for a complicated adult to help him understand the world. And in Vin, he glimpses much more than the washed-up grown-up seen by everyone else.
Is it any good?
Here's the thing about buddy comedies: You have to care about both parties separately, as well as the central friendship itself, for them to be a success. Lose one or the other, and you have a movie that might be fleetingly enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. ST. VINCENT is anything but forgettable. Gifted with a strong cast led by Murray -- who out-Murrays his own previous cheekily brilliant performances -- and a meandering but still compelling story that somehow ties in divorce, Alzheimer's, and race-track gambling, the movie feels like good jazz should: dizzying and moving. We care about Vincent because Murray makes him real enough despite his outrageousness, and we care about Oliver because Lieberher, aided by a script that dares to make a child multi-dimensional, works hard to imbue him with personality and all sorts of complicated emotions.
Laced through it all is a message about judgment. Or, rather, the metamorphic powers of abandoning it. What makes a person a good person? That they pay bills? Look put together? Mow a lawn (or even have a lawn)? Though the film at times strains credulity (and the audience's patience) by pushing Vincent to do meaner and crueler things (see: the scene in the bank regarding a wrongful withdrawal), it nonetheless makes a strong case -- somewhat messily, but still -- for taking people as they are and accepting the gifts that they give willingly, despite sacrifices and personal cost.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Vincent and Oliver's friendship. What draws them to each other? What do they learn from each other?
What is the movie saying about the nature of a person's goodness? What makes someone a "good" person? Can Vincent be considered a role model?
St. Vincent paints a pretty sad picture of Oliver's parents' divorce. How is he processing it? How has it affected him and his mother?
- In theaters: October 10, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2015
- Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
- Director: Ted Melfi
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.
- Last updated: June 25, 2020
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