It's a shame that Bill Murray was ignored at the Oscars for his performance in St. Vincent, the 2014 film about an ageing, grumpy, chain-smoking slob who becomes the unlikely babysitter of his new neighbour's young son.
While on paper it may sound like just another Gran Torino, that movie was much less clever and well acted than this comedy which doesn't sugar-coat anything but still manages to have some genuinely funny but also touching moments. As we see Vietnam war veteran Vincent (Murray), change from a moody, down-and-out alcoholic to a "Saint" of sorts, in the eyes of young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) at least, nothing is forced or random and the tearjerker ending is earned. As we learn more and more about Vincent's troubled past, we understand his daily frustrations better and sympathise with him, even when he's being unreasonable or rude. As for his neighbour Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy), the film paints her as a bit of a deadbeat mother early on but, like with Vincent, the more we learn about her, the more we feel for her tough situation.
St. Vincent skilfully takes a bunch of characters you would never expect to get along and shows, without it coming off as phoney, that if some people were made to get to know each other better, then they could possibly form unlikely yet real friendships and help each other out. There are tough times for these characters but the film still manages to leave you on an upbeat note. It's refreshing to see Melissa McCarthy in a less cartoonish role and she effortlessly reveals herself to be a talented dramatic actress, Bill Murray is excellent of course and Naomi Watts doesn't hold anything back as the Eastern European pregnant prostitute who visits Vincent regularly. Chris O'Dowd and Terrence Howard both pop up in supporting roles and they do a great job also.
If you enjoy bittersweet comedies like Little Miss Sunshine or World's Greatest Dad then St. Vincent should be a good bet. Solid performances by a very likeable cast lead a film with plenty of heart and a very well written, moving and funny script underneath it all.