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Review: The Vicious Kind (2009)

February 13th, 2011

The Vicious Kind is a film worthy of a close watching.

The Vicious Kind is a well conceived and well acted tale of revelation and story-telling. While the subject matter is a bit hard to watch at times – the characters and relationships between them are dysfunctional at best and disturbing more commonly – it’s presented in a calm, almost rustic manner that is, above all else, watchable.

Without going into too great detail as to the plot lines, it is a journey that starts with a boy, Peter (Alex Frost) and his girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) who come to Peter’s home for Thanksgiving vacation from college. As they are picked up by Peter’s older brother Caleb (Adam Scott), we get our first glimpse into the bizarre world in Norfolk from whence the family came. There the three delve into the confused web of a family torn apart, with the ultimate conflict being between Caleb and his father Donald (JK Simmons).

The film is very well acted and earned Scott and filmmaker and writer Lee Toland Krieger honors on the independent film circuit in 2009. I’m not quite sure what has to flow through the mind of someone to craft a story that is, for lack of a better word, vicious in its depiction of family strife and the means by which attempts to heal wounds can be made.

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It is through Emma, the outsider, that the family dynamics are truly revealed. Her interaction with Caleb and our view of his internal struggles show a family divided largely by the lack of truth and ongoing efforts to keep Peter pure and away from strife. Although both Caleb and Donald are troubled in expressing their feelings and their stewardship of the younger son, a prevailing theme throughout is the almost sub-conscious and biologically driven efforts to shield him from trouble and, in some cases, truth. That Caleb and Donald succeed is almost, at times, in spite of their own intentions and actions.

Scott and Snow each excel in developing complex, conflicted characters without overdoing it -- not an easy task given the somewhat out there quirks of the script.

Scott and Snow, in particular, create characters who are intriguing, though not quite likeable and certainly not admirable. Donald is more understated, serving almost as a prop in the storyline and Simmons accomplishes this well with an understated and almost relaxed tone. As Peter, Frost plays the freshman collegian convincingly and somewhat blandly, to good effect.

Krieger shoots the film in a manner that somewhat crosses the style seen in two of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting and In the Bedroom. It pieced together by a simple and soothing score from Jeff Cardoni that knows when to drop back and when to transition.

While this is most certainly not a date movie, it is one that is enjoyable to watch and that makes you think as you move toward understanding the characters. Most certainly worth a watch.

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