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Character: Oliver Bronstein
Created by: Theodore Melfi
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Theodore Melfi
Produced by: Fred Roos, Jenno Topping, Peter Chernin, Theodore Melfi
Other cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard
Release date: October 24, 2014
Premiere date: September 5, 2014 (TIFF)
Genre: Comedy-drama
Running time: 102 minutes

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.


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Full Plot Summary

Vincent MacKenna is a retired, grumpy, alcoholic Vietnam War veteran living in Sheepshead Bay, who smokes and gambles regularly. His wife, Sandy, developed Alzheimer’s years ago and can no longer recognize him, but he poses as a doctor to visit her and does her laundry. Vincent’s only close friends are his cat Felix and a pregnant Russian sex worker named Daka. Despite his aggressive attitude toward strangers, Vincent has acquaintances who admire and care about him.

Vincent’s 30-year-old Chrysler LeBaron gets damaged by a tree branch felled by his new neighbors’ moving van. Maggie Bronstein, a radiology tech divorcee, and her son Oliver meet Vincent, who demands payment for the damage. Maggie does her best to provide for Oliver, who is ostracized and bullied at his Catholic school, but is a knowledgeable, friendly boy, welcomed warmly by his new teacher. On his first day at his school, Oliver’s phone, wallet and house keys are stolen by his classmate Robert. Oliver asks Vincent if he can stay at his home until his mother comes home from work. Vincent offers to continue babysitting for a fee.

Vincent picks up Oliver daily after school because Maggie often has late shifts. Vincent’s ideas of after-school activities involve visits to racetracks and bars. The mismatched pair begin to help each other mature. Vincent teaches Oliver how to defend himself from bullies, resulting in Oliver breaking a bully’s nose, who later apologizes and gives back what he stole. Oliver befriends the boy, who introduces himself as Robert. Vincent and Oliver win a high odds bet on the horses, enabling Vincent to pay off some of his debts. After staff in Sandy’s nursing home have told him he is behind on fees and Sandy will be moved, Vincent steals money from Oliver’s bank account when his own accounts are overdrawn and takes it to the racetrack. He gambles this money away hoping for a big win.

Vincent is confronted in his home by loan sharks Zucko and Antwan who attempt to take Sandy’s jewelry. Vincent suddenly falls to the ground, and Zucko and Antwan leave him on the floor. Oliver finds him and calls emergency services. Vincent is hospitalized, told he has had a stroke, and has to undergo physical therapy. Oliver, Maggie and Daka help Vincent recover but his language remains stilted till the end of the film.

Oliver’s father, a lawyer, finds out about Vincent and uses the information on gambling, introducing Oliver to a prostitute, etc. to get joint custody, with Maggie. She tells Vincent that he can no longer see Oliver.

Vincent becomes depressed after finding out Sandy died while he was hospitalised. He is given a box containing her few belongings and also her ashes.

For his “Saints Among Us” school project, Oliver asks around the neighborhood about Vincent’s past. Later, he nominates Vincent at the school’s assembly, publicly declaring him his saint and presenting him with a medal. Oliver’s rationale comes from his teacher’s definition of sainthood as a person showing ‘commitment and dedication’ and some sacrifice. Vincent fits this in terms of his wife; he also saved two soldiers during the Vietnam war. The rest seems debatable, as gambling and theft don’t seem the best course of action to raise money for nursing home fees. However, the school audience are impressed by Oliver’s speech and applaud Vincent who has been tricked into attending the event by Daka.

Some time later, Daka gives birth to a baby girl and she, along with Maggie, Oliver and Robert, go to Vincent’s house, where they eat and happily talk.


Production

The screenplay was written in 2011 by Theodore Melfi, and was included on the 2011 Hollywood Black List, a list of the best unproduced scripts. Jack Nicholson was rumored to star in the film, but Murray signed on in July 2012. On March 11, 2013, Melissa McCarthy was offered the lead female part and joined the cast. On March 22, Chris O’Dowd joined the cast as a Catholic priest. Naomi Watts joined the cast on April 22 in the role of a Russian prostitute. On July 19, Scott Adsit joined the cast to play McCarthy’s character’s ex-husband.

Filming began the first week of July 2013, with scenes filmed in Brooklyn, New York and at Belmont Park in Elmont, Long Island, New York. On December 26, 2013, Theodore Shapiro was hired to score the film, which was released separately October 27, 2014.


Reception

The Weinstein Company released the film on October 10, 2014, in limited engagements, before making an expansion into wide release on October 24, 2014. St. Vincent received generally positive reviews from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 77%.


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