A Saturday night run to the local DVD machine saw my husband return with the 2014 movie St. Vincent. I didn’t hold high hopes, although seeing Bill Murray and Naomi Watts listed together in the cast – I was intrigued.
Bill Murray plays the lead role of Vincent McKenna, a drunken, grouchy war veteran. He owes money to unsavory folk, drinks in excess, and doesn’t take care of himself. His best friend is his cat Felix and second best friend a Russian sex worker named Daka (played by Naomi Watts).
Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door to Vincent with her 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). She is recently separated from her (several times) cheating husband who is fighting for custody of their son. Maggie is expected to work long hours, so Vincent begrudgingly becomes the after-school babysitter. To soften the inconvenience to himself, he attaches an hourly rate in the hope of potentially paying off his debts or perhaps just to support his gambling addiction.
There is a very sensitive and beautiful side to the character of Vincent that begins to unfold as the movie progresses. We witness him dressing as a doctor to visit a beautiful woman in a nursing home who suffers from dementia. Weekly he visits her and takes home her laundry to do himself. We discover this woman is his wife.
A Personal Connection
At this point in the movie my heart softens to Vincent. My Nan passed away in 2012 after having dementia over many years. A slow dissolving of memory and ability to share natural conversation, and eventually the non-recollection of who you are to them is generally the dementia story. A relationship that used to be invested in and enjoyed with someone very much known to you becomes distant, sometimes aggressive, and at times very sad.
There are moments of joy and recognition, but there is much repetition and constant reminding. But to the sufferer, it is generally a slow decline from basic forgetfulness, to patchy information, to the majority of interactions being new information, and then slipping into complete non-recognition of anyone and inability to function in action and conversation. Watching my Pa support my Nan over many years, while suffering his own medical conditions, was a beautiful thing, so the tenderness in Vincent’s character was somewhat familiar to me.
The after-school babysitting goes very well, according to Vincent and Oliver. There are visits to race tracks and bars, and Vincent teaches Oliver to fight after encountering bullying at his new school. Chris O’Dowd has a splendid role as Oliver’s Catholic school teacher Brother Geraghty. During his first few weeks at the school, Oliver learns about Saints and forthwith a project on “Saints Among Us” is requested from each student.
Brokenness or Saintliness?
Vincent suffers a stroke due to his own failing health and the pressure of his debtor’s physical threats and ends up hospitalized. He is rehabilitated, though the effects of the stroke are still evident.
Although relationships become strained as the truth is leaked, Oliver, in his youthful innocence, goes on a mission to find out more about the character that became the regular male in his life. He finds out splendid information about Vincent’s past, that in Oliver’s mind qualifies him for his project.
The project is presented orally to a large audience of students, parents, and carers. Vincent enters the room broken, injured, cranky, and depressed as he sees Oliver presenting a beautiful tribute to St. Vincent – himself.
I See God in You
This movie moved me. Sometimes we find ourselves broken, injured, cranky, and somewhat depressed. The people around us see us as failures, bad influences, not perfect or polished, and expect much more from us. The judgements and assumptions and inability to see deeper into peoples’ lives causes fractured relationships.
Oliver is able to see Vincent for all that he has accomplished and all that he has been through, gives him massive amounts of grace, and then labels him a saint.
This is what God does when He sees us. He prepares His assignment on us. He has studied us since before we were thought of by our parents. He has joined with us and wiped away the dirt and grit to see us as we really are; righteous and holy. Saints.
This movie was refreshing and surprising – St. Vincent. We all have a story.