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An elegant study in character and the use of subtle good vs evil
interplay in the presentation of a character to an audience. Caleb, the
character in question, is the true focus of the movie, though the
camera dwells lovingly on the beautiful Emma ("a dark angel, does your
sister dye her hair black like that? It's very flattering") for obvious
Our feelings for Caleb shift constantly from bemusement, to loathing, to admiration to astonishment, but the balance is always cleverly maintained in his favour (juxtaposed by a less than flattering portrayal of his brother as the prudish 'republican') and with the climax of the film, despite his often atrocious behaviour, Caleb is the lovable anti-hero. We find ourselves, against our better judgement, rooting for him.
Kreiger has created one of the most memorable personalities in a modern film - a true train wreck of a character and one you will not forget in a hurry - and a masterclass in independent film making. Forget Paranormal Activity. Here is a budget movie worthy of the indie tag and your attention.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The indies about dysfunctional families are many in number but tend to
be low in quality. It's a subgenre that lends itself to tired cliché,
poor comedy, and over-the-top preciosity. The Vicious Kind throws all
that bunk out the window and commits 100% to its tropes this is not a
family where everybody gets along at the end of the day and we're just
there to laugh and feel good about ourselves. The father is not a goofy
slacker, but a deeply troubled, unfaithful man. The older brother
doesn't resent his younger sibling, he actively betrays him. He's not
on uneasy terms with his father, he's altogether estranged. The mother
isn't the passive observer trying to keep it together; she died many
years ago. This is still a comedy, but a very dark one.
On a more specific level, the film is about Caleb, an embittered misogynist with a fervent belief that "all women are whores". While giving his brother and his new girlfriend a drive home for Thanksgiving, he develops a peculiar set of feelings for her she so resembles his ex, who two-timed him twice. On the one hand, he repeatedly warns her not to cheat on his brother. On the other, he can't quite leave her alone. Only after seeing her can he get some sleep; an insomniac, he seems to be hurtling toward self-destruction, his actions erratic. He says awful things and then apologizes for them sincerely. He gets into fights and treats people like dirt. He's the archetypal anti-hero, a chain-smoking, unhappy construction worker. One wonders why he ended up where he is, because he's clearly an intelligent man.
The other segment of the film deals with his relationship with his father, long ago foiled when a rift formed between him and his wife. The first time Donald sees Caleb in eight years, he threatens to shoot him. Their arc, however, much like every one in this film, is ultimately cathartic.
Caleb is so certain of every woman's innate unfaithfulness, he assumes it of Emma as soon as he meets her. It's only after the deed is done and he gives in to his baser urges that he realizes that he himself is the facilitator, the cause. His theories on women are certainly reinforced by her actions, but only because of him. He is the cause of everything he hates, and it forces him to reevaluate his perspective and maybe, finally, lay his past to rest.
It's a humble plot, but Krieger's confident direction and zipline editing that never allows for us to lose sight of Caleb's desperation keeps the story from ever growing stale. Of course, the true reason it works so well is the acting; this is one of the year's finest ensembles.
Brittany Snow plays the kind of character who can easily become forgettable or two-dimensional, but keeps a kind of earthy realism to her characterization. It's a subtle performance, one easily passed over, but her image of repression and conflicting desire sticks in the memory after the film is long over.
Now, J.K. Simmons here is an actor who needs a big, juicy role in a big, juicy film, because he so clearly has the potential to win an Oscar. He's played the father figure before, but here, sporting a light New York drawl (or some similar accent, so subtle I can't quite place it), he paints the portrait of a sad, regretful old man trying to cling to scraps of his youth and keep his sons on his side along the way. Caleb's betrayal hit him hard.
Adam Scott's is a performance that was not what I was expecting. Caleb is the role many would kill for, a mess of a man, bitter, angry, miserable in turn, jaded with the world. He wears a shell of cynicism and brusque rudeness five inches thick, and then suddenly lets it melt and shows something of the wounded creature he hides within. He has a few scenes that are devastating in their honesty and then turns around and delivers the clever barbs the script gives him with easy aplomb.
With that whip-smart dialogue never impeding the film's sincerity and a wonderful ensemble, The Vicious Kind packs an emotional punch that most films of its sort lack.
The Vicious Kind (2009)
This sneaks up on you. At first you can't believe how awful the older brother is, mean and acerbic, but he's strangely perceptive and quick, too. Played by Adam Scott, he's really a wonder to watch, and he makes the movie. The other three main characters end up being strong but supporting roles, making for a great small ensemble performance. And they have a curious, not spectacular, but nuanced plot. It's filled with little clichés we are sure we've seen before, but it all has an odd arc to it, and a cutting, believable edge, and it takes on a life of its own.
This is only director Lee Toland Krieger's second film, and it shows a kind of deft handling of young people's problems that is precocious, and promising. Adam Scott has been knocking about for fifteen years, and has crossed paths with some of the best (he has been in some quality t.v. like "Six Feet Under," and was a secondary character in "The Aviator" among many others). The father in "The Vicious Kind," a pivotal character in explaining the motives behind the two sons, is that strong character actor, J.K. Simmons, who has trouble shedding his previous roles (including a more comic version of the same thing in "Juno").
A whole greater than the sum of its parts. Captivating. Not to be underestimated.
The premise of this movie seemed interesting enough for me to give it a
try. The story revolves around Caleb, a misogynist construction worker
in a small town. His younger brother Peter just got his first "serious"
girlfriend, which he is bringing for Thanksgiving to their dad's.
Adam Scott was an unknown to me but is absolutely amazing in the role of Caleb. He conveys all the suffering in this character on the inside, with all the aggressiveness on the outside. Caleb is fueled by hatred and negativity but the writing and direction of Lee Toland Krieger, and the performance by Scott suggest that if this hatred is explicitly directed at others, it is implicitly self-hatred.
Caleb is estranged from his father for reasons we learn about through the movie and his relationship with his naive brother is uneasy at best. The gap separating them is the very different outlook they have on life and love. Peter is more of an idealist while Caleb is on the slippery slope of fatalism.
Neither of them seems to be able to see the complete picture and their father Donald Sinclaire might have something to do with this. Donald is the prototypical dad figure. Doesn't talk much and prefers to address superficialities when he does. A scene that particularly highlight this is a dinner scene between him, Peter and his girlfriend Emma. While Donald can't stop complimenting Emma on her looks, Peter at some point shifts to her academic background, which seems to put the father outside his comfort zone. Veteran actor J.K. Simmons puts another great performance as the father, a great casting choice.
The last piece of the puzzle is the outsider who crashes in this family at such a critical point. Emma is Peter's new girlfriend and while it would have been easy to make this character little more than a plot device, she has several interesting layers to her. What we know from the start about her is that she is smart, polite, beautiful and herself comes from a less than perfect family (there is talk of alcoholism). More importantly perhaps, she dumped someone for Peter, which further fuels Caleb's belief that "all women are whores" as he likes to say. I had no idea who Brittany Snow was but I was blown away by her performance as Emma. Looking at her credit list afterwards, I would never have expected that.
The story mixes all the things you'd expect from an indie. Humor (mostly dark) is there, the main characters are quirky and the peripheral characters even more so. The camera-work, editing and music all ooze of this "indie feel". If anything, this hurts this heartfelt film more than it helps. Lee Toland Krieger obviously wrote a great and heartfelt story but there,s this sense that he has watched a lot of film festival darlings and well... it's just not terribly original in presentation and at times, feels formulaic.
The only other negative aspect would be the character of Peter. Naive and idealistic does not mean a character should be bland. Likewise, actor Alex Frost is unremarkable in this role.
All in all, this is a fine film and with Caleb Sinclaire, we have been given a misogynist character that almost rivals Roger Swanson (from the cult classic Roger Dodger). I just hope that in the future, Lee Toland Krieger will find his own voice and style when making movies as opposed to shooting it "like other indies".
In a lot of ways this feels like a some what darker version of Dan In
Real life. Caleb (Adam Scott) picks up his little brother Peter (Alex
Frost) and his new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) for Thanksgiving. It
becomes clear that Caleb is dealing with some raging emotional issues.
About his ex-girlfriend and his dad Donald (J.K. Simmons)who tends to
have issues of his own. Caleb starts to grow infatuated with Emma to
the point of almost breaking sanity.
I"m not going to spoil the film so I am going to keep my feelings short. By no means is the story original,but the acting was good enough to enjoy it. I think Adam Scott played his role well. As well as Brittany . Got to give it up for J.K. Simmons! That guy rocks at playing dad's . The weakest acted role in my opinion was by Alex Frost. Not saying it was bad! Just not as strong as the others. He played a great bully in Drillbit Taylor though ill give him that.
I give it an 8 out of 10! Simply because of the acting, and starring at Brittany for an hour and a half wasn't so bad either...Shes Gorgeous!
This felt like a breeze of fresh air, and it ambushes the viewer in a very good way. Taking place in a cold small town, I tended to put it on a strange "cold-far-away-god forgotten postmodern scenery" shelf, strange because this shelf contains Lost in translation, The girl in the café, Gigantic, Twilight and other seemingly unrelated movies. But The Vicious Kind is by far the most alive and vigorous movie out of these, in which the characters seem to be living very sincerely and intense, even against their own will. The humor is also genial, and the tenderness/passion that the love (or simply sex) story inspires is also an unexpected surprise. Loved this movie. The way one would appreciate a hot and tasty meal in a cold winter's day, after a mouthful of cold cucumber soup that the more pretend to be classy movies often serve. and i imagine the main character ended up to be Sully Sullivan from Nobody's Fool, the 1994 movie, played by Paul Newman.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I agree with the prior poster on this movie's pros: good acting - all
characters did well. But, as is the nature of these stories, you are
looking at weak, selfish people, who cannot seem to control their
emotions, even if at the cost of ruining another person's life.
Such is the story of Caleb. As the elder brother. I couldn't help but notice the contradiction in his misogynistic attitudes towards women at the beginning, only to behave contrary wise towards the younger brother's girlfriend. She, as "all other women, mother included", are "whores". Yet the girl, knowing full well the outcome, could not resist Caleb's advances, because she was not getting good enough sex from the younger Peter. Caleb had already labeled her a whore more than once; so was he right? Such infatuation with her could hardly be healthy.
So now the question: what exactly was gained, other than ruining the lives of two people who, markedly, would not be able to handle the resulting blow from such selfishness? I'm still thinking of the lessons this movie attempts to prove, and I must say it delivered with brutal honesty.
Worth viewing by mature people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For those who enjoy quintessential indie films about dysfunctional
families, you might want to give 'The Vicious Kind' a nice peek. The
film's protagonist is Caleb, who has become a full-blown misogynist
after being dumped by another girlfriend. Caleb is one step away from
being a stalker and maybe a couple more steps away from becoming a
serial killer. When we first meet him, he's picking his brother Peter
up at school and driving him to see their father who he hasn't talked
to in eight years. He's not afraid to express to his brother, his
deeply held conviction that all women are "whores". In a flashback, we
see Caleb leaving some photos he took of his girlfriend while having
sex together, under her door and driving away.
On the way to the family home, Caleb and Peter pick up Peter's new girlfriend, Emma. True to form, Caleb acts boorishly towards Emma who's puzzled why he's so hostile. Caleb leaves Peter and Emma at the entrance to the driveway since he doesn't want to run into his father. Father Donald is almost as boorish as Caleb; he makes inappropriate comments to Emma laced with sexual innuendo at the dinner table. Peter passively rebukes the father who doesn't seem to take any hints.
Caleb soon becomes fixated on Emma in a love-hate sort of way. In their first encounter alone at a supermarket, Caleb chokes Emma and threatens to kill her if she does anything to 'hurt' his brother. Outside, Caleb collects himself and apologizes to Emma, who answers by slugging him in the face. Some time later, Caleb confuses Emma by showing a more sensitive side (they share a cigarette together on the porch at night while Peter and their father are inside sleeping).
But Caleb can't suppress his fixation on Emma. He shows up with a camera hiding in the woods and the father mistakes him for a raccoon and almost shoots him with a rifle. Soon we learn that it's not only the fact that Caleb has been rejected by women that accounts for his extreme emotional problems. It seems that after their mother had an affair with another man years ago, she left Donald and he then prevented her from seeing the children (the father's story is that the mother chose not to see the kids). Caleb knows about his father's dishonesty but never told Peter who was 12 years old at the time. Caleb was the only family member to see the mother when she was dying of cancer and that's the reason why he and his father hadn't talked to one another for eight years.
Caleb continues the pattern of showing his contempt for Emma and then apologizing. This goes on until the night Emma accidentally locks herself out of the family home and asks Caleb to help get back in. He knows a way of jimmying the window on the side of the house; as they enter through the window, they end up tripping and Caleb falls on top of Emma. Here is the moment when you think Emma is going to give in to Caleb but instead she tells him she never wants to see him again.
Her intense dislike for Caleb melts when Peter turns out to be hopeless in bed as he is an inexperienced virgin. Caleb can't resist coming over to the house one more time and this time he hits pay dirt. After masturbating continuously, Emma is desperate for sex and finally cannot deny she's been attracted to Caleb all along. The bad boy triumphs and they have some very good sex together. Donald catches Caleb outside the room where Emma is collecting herself and threatens to tell Peter that Caleb has been having sex with his girlfriend. Caleb turns the tables on his father and threatens to tell Peter that he kept them from their mother when they young. An uneasy truce unfolds.
The denouement holds some redemption for Caleb who reconciles with his father. Donald is also able to 'open up' as he tells Peter that he made mistakes in the past but essentially loves him. The damage however is done for Peter and Emma's relationship; on the way back to school, Peter whispers in Emma's ear that he loves her. Emma can only stare straight ahead with a tiny tear dripping down her faceshe knows that she can never go for a wimpy guy like Peter, especially after she's had such a good time with his bad boy brother.
'The Vicious Kind' has one major defect: the undeveloped and essentially bland portrait of brother Peter. Where the rest of the ensemble, Caleb, Emma and Donald, are all engaging characters, we find out little about Peter. Why for example is Emma even attracted to him in the first place? And why he is so passive in the face of the boorish behaviors of his brother and father? He's essentially a punching bag who's continually manipulated and humiliated by his brother. Why doesn't he take a stand at any point? His passivity is never explained and he seems only to exist as a uninvolved counterweight to Caleb's aggression.
Brittany Fox is brilliant as the confused Emma who perfectly illustrates that women are attracted to 'bad boys' and not wimps. Adam Scott effectively conveys a young man teetering on the brink of a complete nervous breakdown. He and J.K. Simmons ably convey the dual nature of both father and son: both are damaged goods but manage to redeem themselves through love at the film's end. Vittorio Braham as J.T., Caleb's construction worker friend, does a fine job of depicting a young man with obvious learning disabilities but one who is also a loyal and supportive companion.
I doubt that the 'The Vicious Kind' will have much commercial success in mainstream movie theaters due to its dark, misogynistic theme, but as a nice little indie ensemble piece, it rightly fits the bill.
During a star-free night at an already emptied drive-in theatre, this
film made my heart burn. This very last screening of a winter's night
did not attract an audience but one sole viewer. And if you have an
understanding of passion and pain you might not even be comforted by a
crowd. You might prefer solitude while watching cinematic characters
fight and love.
There are no exceptional techniques, there is no dazzling style. Visually the film holds back. As a result one character can step forward. Only this person seems to inhabit the film's universe and this could be considered a drop of bitterness.
However, this one person is able to entertain without the necessity of applause. He embodies the passionate being who bites back after being wounded. It is easy to fall for the broken one as long as you believe that there is a chance to heal. He is explosive. His hatred is an exceptional passion in disguise. In a universe of flat personalities he stands out. He cares too much, he loves too much and he cannot stop being passionate about every single soul. As a result, his viciousness is not inspiring hate but love from us and from them. We and everyone else are attracted because he is so full of what everyone else seems to lack.
The film presents us a world where people are not grown-up emotionally. Passions are rare and feared. In this universe people do not easily possess passionate love. Only the protagonist seems to own it but he also seems unable to handle it. Still, he is able to inspire another person, maybe even the audience to love him back. We learn that pain and love do not end, but jump like a virus from person to person. Love stories repeat themselves.
Passion is portrayed as a very dangerous form of love, one which easily feeds into a vicious cycle of being hurt and of hurting in return. But whether or not you can handle the pain and the guilt, for the passionate ones it seems inevitable to fall for it at least once in their lives.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After a few minutes of this film....not knowing anything about who
directed it, who wrote it or what it was about..going in completely
"blind" ....I guessed it was written by a guy. And, yes...it was.
I'm so tired of movies where women characters are written this way...as with the Brittany Snow character. I don't know too many girls/women etc. that would find a man attractive, almost a stranger they've known them such a short time, after he talks to her like she is a complete idiot and calls her almost every horrible name in the book, then is physically threatening. COME ON!!! What is that saying to young women out there? Look hot, be shallow and it doesn't matter if a guy is clean/gross/smokes/is abusive, you are going to find that guy SO irresistible in a few hours that you will want to give your virginity to him in a room down the hall from a guy who LOVES you and treats you like a queen.
BULLLLLLLLLL. While there are some women of all ages who might do this on a rare occasion....a woman who is intelligent, has a shred of self worth is NOT going to do this.
Not only is the Caleb character a complete jerk, he has no qualities that stand out that make you want to care about him. We ALL have bad things in our lives and history. Parents split up, have affairs, dogs get run over, crazy stalker ex's and more....but his character was written without a smidge of any likability. Why in the world would ANYONE but a woman he has paid, WANT to have sex with him. He wasn't even somewhat likable until almost the last few seconds of the movie.
How about a non-confused woman, who not only DOESN'T have sex with the loser brother, but refuses to get in the truck after his behavior at the beginning of the trip? We may not have had a movie or story after that, but that sounds like a good idea to me.
Grow up to the boys/men on here calling women whores..... no one wants to love a mouth that says EVERY woman is a whore JUST because she is female. How narrow minded is that? And so angry.
Maybe someone else will adore this movie, but if they do....try to keep in mind it is JUST a movie and not only are women not all whores, not all fathers are adulterous jerks and sons/brothers smoking, abusive stalkers.
Or I hope not.
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