Wednesday, September 21, 2016
An Imperfect Saint: A review of St. Vincent
One of my favorite things about the Catholic Church is the Communion of Saints. I love being able to ask my grandparents to pray for me. Over the years, I also feel like I have made best friends with some of our brothers and sisters in heaven: St. Therese of Liseux, Sts. Zeilie and Louise Martin, St. Lucy, St. Monica, St. Francis, and St. John Paul II. It's so great having advocates in heaven cheering us on and interceding on our behalf. The Communion of Saints seems also to be one of the many misunderstood teachings of the Church, and the film St. Vincent is one of the films that demonstrates one of those misunderstandings.
St. Vincent is actually a really great film. Melissa McCarthy (Maggie) and Bill Murray (Vincent) are an unlikely duo in this film yet they bring a perfect balance of comedy and drama. This is one of those films that really doesn't fit into either genre perfectly. The film is about a struggling newly divorced mom whose son finds an unlikely mentor in their new drunken, gambling neighbor. As the boy learns more about his neighbor who can truly be described as a diamond in the rough, their relationship along with that between him and his mother are thrown into turmoil. The story culminates in the "Saints Among Us" presentation where at a school-wide assembly where Oliver and his classmates present someone in their lives who is similar to a canonized saint. Oliver's presentation is truly touching and brings the film together in a way that I was not expecting.
Because I'm Catholic, I'm pretty picky about details in movies about Catholics. My friend and I were at a student film festival and there was a story about a Catholic priest prior to Vatican II. I sat there pointing out to my friend, who was not Catholic by the way, the little details that were not accurate to the period the film takes place. Now, I am of the belief that a writer, director, and producer should do their research before making a film no matter the subject matter. Never assume you know enough to write about it. My biggest issue with the film was not that this sinful man was considered a saint by a young boy but the film's description of what a saint is. Oliver's teacher, a Catholic priest, describes a saint as someone who devotes themselves to make the lives of other people around them better. While this description is not inaccurate, it is incomplete. The only saint really talked about is St. Teresa of Calcutta. She's not a saint because of her good works but because of her undying love and devotion to God. Throughout the entire movie, while Catholicism places a central role in the story, God is never mentioned. Okay, he's mentioned once when the priest makes Oliver lead class prayer. It makes me really sad because this movie could have been great, amazing even if God played a bigger role in the movie. Our good works mean NOTHING if God is not at the heart of it. Like I said, calling this sinful man a saint is not wrong; the presentation scene actually was really heartwarming and touching.
This movie really is worth watching. I absolutely love it. I just feel disappointed when a movie doesn't live up to it's potential. I have to note, this is one of Melissa McCarthy's best roles. She has the best line in the movie, and I'm convinced she came up with it because it was unexpected, hilarious, and only could have been written by a woman. I highly recommend the movie. The Communion of Saints is so mysterious because we don't know who all is up there. God's mercy is deeper than the ocean, and we have no idea who opens themselves up to receive it. That means we have no idea whose up there praying for us and waiting to greet us when we join them in heaven.