REVIEW: The Vicious Kind

Image courtesy of Rama's Screen

The Vicious Kind
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Written by: Lee Toland Krieger
Starring: Adam Scott, Brittany Snow, J.K. Simmons, and Alex Frost

New film discoveries during the earlier months in the year are always a must until Hollywood does its spring cleaning.  Luckily, I’ve found one such film that will hold you in its sinister grasp from start to finish.

Lee Toland Krieger’s The Vicious Kind, spearheaded by a wicked tour de force from relative unknown Adam Scott, is a provocative breath of fresh air for both the holiday-set family drama and the  rotting garbage at the cinema.  Set around Thanksgiving, the film focuses on brothers Peter (Alex Frost) and Caleb (Scott), Peter’s girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow), and their now-single father Donald (J.K. Simmons).

You think you know how this movie should go.  Mom should be dying of cancer, brothers should resent not only each other but also dad, and they should all reconcile because of the holidays.

For starters, mom’s already dead.  It hangs over the movie like a gray cloud, rarely spoken of.  When Peter comes home from college with Emma, we find out that Caleb hasn’t spoken to his father in more than eight years.  He’s not even coming to Thanksgiving.

That’s all you really need to know about the family elements that propel the plot forward.  What’s most important is the brotherly love triangle.  Emma likes nice-guy Peter, but the insomniac, bipolar Caleb is starting to turn her on.  From a physically violent encounter at a super market to an emotionally violent one outside his father’s house, the turmoil seems to excite both of them.

Both actors handle this expertly.  I’ve already mentioned Adam Scott’s good in the role, but his performance is so deep; seething and loose at the edges.  He deserved one of those five Best Actor spots at the Oscars.  He had to settle for the Independent Spirit Awards, where he still lost to Jeff Bridges.

Brittany Snow is surprisingly good at playing Emma.  Until now she’s never really gotten to flex her dramatic acting muscle.  I never thought she’d escape the high school cliche roles in movies like Prom Night and John Tucker Must Die, but thankfully she has.  If she keeps up with the smart, indie scripts she may have a bright future ahead of her.

J.K. Simmons is reliably great in his smaller role.  As the broken patriarch of a broken family, he handles his role with just the right amount of gravity and humor.

Alex Frost is a relative newcomer, and it shows.  He does show promise, but in the age of Gabourey Sidibe, I suppose I just expect more out of newcomers.

Krieger is relatively new to this game, too.  The Vicious Kind is his third feature, you can’t tell from watching it though.  The film moves through its 92 minutes quickly thanks to his terrific screenplay and great performances. Though he comes dangerously close to cliche at the end, he wisely ends it before it’s allowed to fully seep in.

He shows a command over his material as well as his cast and crew.  This film doesn’t feel like a scrappy low budget indie film, but it is, which is all for the better.

Grade: B+

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Vicious Kind

  1. thank you for the very good review. it’s always nice to hear from people who enjoyed the film. i just wanted to make a small correction: “the vicious kind” is actually lee’s second feature film, not third. his first was “december ends,” which he completed while still a student at usc. imdb does list another film, “the nature of space & time,” but it is a short.

    best,

    tim harms
    producer
    “the vicious kind”

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