Bill Murray has played a remarkable collection of curmudgeons and misanthropes – Tripper, Carl Spackler, John Winger, Dr. Peter Venkman, Frank Cross, Bob Wiley, Phil Connors, Frank Milo, Ernie McCracken, Wallace Ritchie, Herman Blume, and Raleigh St. Clair among them. All seem as warmups to Vincent McKenna in Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent.
Vincent McKenna is a Vietnam veteran living on an almost depleted reverse mortgage, entertaining once a week his lady-of-the night friend, Daka Parimova (who may be the mother of his child), avoiding loan sharks, and playing the horses. His house is a pig sty and his only companion is a cat named Felix.
One day a moving company crushes Vincent’s fence and knocks a branch off his tree and onto his car while moving in his new neighbor, the soon-to-be divorced nurse Maggie Bronstein, and her elementary school-aged wimp son, Oliver. Vincent threatens lawsuits and police action. When Maggie finds herself without anyone to tend her son in an emergency, Vincent agrees to help, only if paid.
The developing relationship between Oliver and Vincent constitutes the plot of the film.
Vincent McKenna does not like Oliver and Oliver does not like Vincent McKenna.
Nevertheless, between Oliver’s love for Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, and Vincent’s watering his dirt garden while lip-syncing Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm”, director and screenwriter Theodore Melfi has crafted a winsome illustration of the how, why, and what of a kind of love known as agape, self-sacrifice.
Agape has nothing to do with feelings or sex or kindness or friendship or romance.
Agape is object in the entence “God is love”.
Agape is the action in Silverstein’s fable and the “She” of Dylan’s great song.
But the best way to understand agape (since Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino) is to see St. Vincent.