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Performances Elevate 'St. Vincent'

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St. Vincent is a rather quiet little movie made remarkable mostly, but not exclusively, by Bill Murray's performance in a basically non-comic role, as a man scraping by on the fringes of society who is suddenly confronted with situations requiring him to do the right thing, whether he feels like it or not.

Melissa McCarthy, also notable in a serious role, has to have somebody watch over her small child while she is at work, and Murray is about the only candidate for the job. Fortunately, his basic instincts are right, though he does not like the idea and has virtually no judgment as to how to go about it. He introduces the child to his pregnant prostitute girlfriend and takes him to bars and racetracks and illegal gambling events, and teaches him the Murray view on life: You work, you get paid, you drink.

Again fortunately, the child is another remarkable character well played. Jaeden Lieberher performs him as wise beyond his years, probably smarter than anybody else in the movie, accepting everything without comment but not much impressed by the adult world around him. It's one of the best juvenile performances I've seen in a long time.

Naomi Watts' pregnant prostitute is edgier than the others, but, like them, well intentioned and street smart.

Considering its subject matter, there is surprisingly little sentimentality in St. Vincent. Everybody makes a big pretense of being paid for whatever they do, though little actual money changes hands. Minor criminality is accepted, but meanness is not. Nobody expects anything from the government. In the present political atmosphere, St. Vincent should do well.