There hasn’t been a lot worth watching on these cold autumn evenings, but last night we took a chance on Saint Vincent, a fresh iTunes download and it was really quite good for a Friday evening.
I often can’t be bothered mentally engaging with a complex storyline at the end of the week so this movie fitted just fine. In it Bill Murray plays the role of a grumpy old single man who spends his days drinking, smoking, gambling, living off his reverse mortgage, while avoiding those who he owes money to and hanging out with a pregnant Russian prostitute. As the movie begins he’s a completely unlikeable character, but you don’t find yourself asking ‘why’? You just find him cantankerous and fairly obnoxious.
His new neighbour is a single mum with a young boy who starts a new school, gets bullied and ends up in Vincent’s home on his first day where he is ‘cared for’ until his mother gets back from work. Because she’s desperate, Vincent ends up becoming her son, Oliver’s paid day care provider while she works late to make ends meet.
So Vincent’s method of babysitting involves taking Oliver around on his daily activities – the pub, the track and various other haunts that probably wouldn’t warm his mother’s heart. While the story follows the softening of Vincent’s heart towards Oliver and the quirky relationship that forms, the ‘punchline’ is in the assignment Oliver does for his religious education class on a ‘real living saint’.
While other kids are choosing the Mother Theresa types, Oliver picks Vincent and begins to research his life, discovering that beneath the offensive and unattractive veneer there is a man who does good, who helps others and who may even be considered a ‘saint’. (I’m not talking ‘biblical’ definitions here so don’t get all theological on me) You’ll have to watch the movie to get the whole gist of it, but for this framing of ‘sainthood’ it gets a tick from me.
Vincent makes sainthood attainable and shows that in all of us there is the image of God pushing out somewhere, making none of us either all good or all bad. Vincent presents as a loser – as an unattractive and unpleasant man with no redeeming qualities, but Oliver is able to see the good in him – able to see the light in the darkness that is so much of Vincent’s life. And in seeing the light he speaks to it and calls it out further.
You wouldn’t want to read too much into a Friday night movie, (because it is pretty lite for the most part) but the clear message from this one is that we need to be able to think differently about goodness and the way we type people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Vincent is like most of us – a mix of admirable qualities and some that are really quite disturbing. I often say ‘we are all broken – some of us are just more visibly broken than others.’ The fact that you can’t see my brokenness as obviously as Vincent’s doesn’t mean its any less there – its just that mine is generally more sociably acceptable.
So if you find syrupy saints a bit too saccharine for your liking, then maybe Vincent will be more to your taste…