Director/Writer: TED MELFI
Starring: BILL MURRAY (Vincent)
MELISSA McCARTHY (Maggie)
NAOMI WATTS (Daka)
CHRIS O'DOWD (Bro. Geraghty)
JAEDEN LIEBERHER (Oliver)
TERRENCE HOWARD (Zucko)
IMDB Log: 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.
This picture is too good to be true. I may never analyze it just out of respect to the talent displayed. It is a classic example of structure while turning the tables on the traditional concept of Protagonist and Antagonist.
Here are some notes that have come from out Screenplay Meetup Group discussion in Northville, MI. As the discussion continues I'll add more.
The Movie's tag line is "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR"... but on first appearances the neighbor (Vincent) is not very lovable; and it appears as if Vincent is not loving anyone else in return. Thus, everyone needs to love each other. It's a challenge. But then the curtain is slowly pulled back to reveal that things are not what they seem. No spoilers here...perhaps after the movie leaves theaters.
THE CONFLICT OF VALUES
The Conflict of Values articulate the inner world-views that create the outer physical-conflict. The values must be naturally opposing. These same set of values are at work between the all the characters in conflict in a movie, but may personify themselves in different ways. We only need one of these pairs for the film, but our discussion suggests the following possibilities:
Selfishness v. Selflessness
Self-Centered v. Others-Centered
Inward v. Outward
Apathetic v. Engaged
Narcissistic v. Sacrificial
This results in a Moral Premise Statement that could look like one of these:
Selfishness leads to hermitages; but
Selflessness leads to neighborhoods.
Narcissism leads to isolation; but
Sacrifice leads to community.
Self-Centeredness leads to despising your neighbor; but
Others-centered leads to loving your neighbor.
We also discussed several of the songs used in the movie to underscore the moral premise and the character's arcs. Briefly, ONE STEP OVER THE LINE [Nitty Gritty Dirt Band] relates to the movie as it encourages the characters to step from selfishness to selflessness. It applies to Robert, Oliver, Maggie, Vincent, and Daka. That the original lyrics (Ggogle them) that refer to sex in the backseat of a car, indicates the risk and passion that the characters in St. Vincent need to embrace for their transformation. The song is played under the scene where Oliver is mowing Vincent's backyard DIRT...and that the song was made popular by the Nitty gritty Dirt Band helps.
I FOUGHT THE LAW (and the law won) [CLASH] is played under the clash between Oliver and Robert in gym, where both get bloodied up. The lyrics immediately reinforce how bullying and revenge are selfish acts that have consequences. But they also refer to the natural law consequences of drunkenness, gambling, leaving your spouse, a dying spouse, and taking others for granted. In each case, or subplot of the movie, natural law wins out. If your motivations are virtuous you have a better chance at happiness than being motivated by a vice.
START A WAR [The National] plays under Vincent's major loss at the race track. What's significant here is that he's not drunk when he leaves, but he realizes that he's going to have to face facts and the reality of life...and in doing so he's going to start a war...and indeed his bookie is waiting for him at home. The consequences turn the story and the characters in dramatic ways, just as starting a war does. But in this case, because a virtue is in play, the consequences of the war take us to a better place. Vincent as an opportunity to "Walk away now" or "start a war." He has finally come to grips that the war is what he has to face for transformation of the moral premise to occur..
SHELTER FROM THE STORM [Boy Dylan] is played over the final credits when Vincent waters the dead plants and barren dirt in his backyard. At the very end Vincent even "washes his feet" a spiritual sign of true redemption. Download the words and look at how they recount the whole movie, "Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood" (Vincent fought in Vietnam)...Come in, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm." Here are the questions: What is the "storm"? And, who is "she"? For the answers, guess where I'd have you look?
RESOURCESTo study this more, as we will be in coming months, here are some resources links:
Scene times and percentages in Excel worksheet
The Screenplay, submitted for an Oscar from TWC
As is usual, my recommendation is to figure out the Story Fundamentals, the 13 Major Beats using the linked resources. The Story Diamond may help you, as well.