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MOVIES: ‘St. Vincent’ defies any ‘grumpy old man’ conventions

At first glance, "St. Vincent" may seem like just another drop in the bucket for the "grumpy old man" plotline ("Gran Torino," "As Good As It Gets," for starters).

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Jaeden Lieberher and Bill Murray star in “St. Vincent,” now in theaters. The Weinstein Company

At first glance, “St. Vincent” may seem like just another drop in the bucket for the “grumpy old man” plotline (“Gran Torino,” “As Good As It Gets,” for starters).

But when you add Bill Murray to the mix, it is safe to expect a film that defies conventions. Murray plays Vincent, a Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., resident and war veteran who enjoys drinking, betting on horses and the company of a pregnant Eastern European “lady of the night” (Naomi Watts).

At the conclusion of the film’s opening sequence, Vincent is introduced to his new neighbors, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), when their moving crew knocks a tree branch onto his car - it is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved.

A couple of days later, when Maggie finds herself stuck at work and Oliver is victim to some new-kid bullying at school, Vincent becomes Oliver’s very unlikely babysitter.

The relationship between Vincent and Oliver is the centerpiece of the movie, and both Murray and Lieberher are up to the task. Murray’s wry performance is sure to see him up for a few awards this winter, as he delicately balances the silliness, grumpiness and sadness needed to successfully portray Vincent.

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Lieberher, in his first feature film role, goes toe-to-toe with Murray, both in the delivery of some hilarious one-liners and in some of the film’s more dramatic scenes.

McCarthy is also quite brilliant as Maggie, proving she can tone down the insane comedy (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”) and give an honest, sometimes heartbreaking, portrayal of a single mother.

Watts gives a scene-stealing performance as Daka. She is best-known for her dramatic performances, but her comedic timing is right up there with Murray in “St. Vincent.” Chris O’Dowd is also a scene stealer as Brother Geraghty, one of the teachers at Oliver’s school.

“St. Vincent” sets itself apart from its “grumpy old man” cohorts with its strong ensemble performances and its just-right mixture of comedy and drama. Although there are many laughs to be had here, it is not an all-out comedy. Maggie is facing a custody battle for Oliver, and Vincent’s bawdy existence is catching up with him in terms of his financial situation.

The character development is a key factor in “St. Vincent.” Instead of relying on Vincent being grumpy for the sake of being grumpy, the story goes into immense detail in outlining his past and his present, allowing viewers to see the why he is the way he is.

While the plot of the film is not saintly by any means, “St. Vincent” is a pretty entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, from the opening sequence through the roll of the closing credits. And trust me, you’ll want to stay through the credits this time.

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By Catherine Krummey, Forum News Service.
Krummey is the features editor at the Grand Forks Herald. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook as ckrummey. You can also reach her at (701) 780-1265; 800-477-6572, ext. 1265; or ckrummey@gfherald.com .

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(L-R) Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher and Naomi Watts share some candy bars. The Weinstein Company

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