Friday, September 17, 2010

The Vicious Kind (2009)

The honour of first review on the blah blah blah gay movie review blog goes to The Vicious Kind (2009). Congratulations to Lee Toland Krieger, I'm sure this is exactly what you had hoped for when you wrote and directed this movie. Years of work have now rightfully been rewarded.

Starring an excellently beardy Adam Scott as the slightly damaged Caleb Sinclaire and featuring a dark haired Brittany Snow, a grown up Alex Frost and the always excellent JK Simmons as the rest of the headliners.

Nice artwork found for the advertising. I actually really like all three of them for different reasons but primarily they really jump straight out as belonging to the independent film oeuvre. You know where you are with a movie with a poster like those above. Something a little different, a little edgy, touching on human drama rather than your typical rom-com with predictable plot lines or mega blockbusters filled with explosions.

And they also put out a pretty good trailer that really gives a good impression of what the movie is all about, complete with hints of the humour, the emotion and the slightly obvious storyline.

I shall now attempt to synopsisize for you: Peter (Alex Frost) brings his new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) home from college for Thanksgiving (apparently this is a festive event in America that involves turkey and family drama.) Caleb (Adam Scott) is his older brother who has a very negative opinion of women – "You know they're all whores, right?" Donald (JK Simmons) is their father. Caleb dislikes Emma and warns Peter off of her. Donald and Caleb haven't spoken to each other in quite some time. As the weekend plays out the family dynamic begins to shift.

OK, so even though the plot is a little predictable Krieger has done a great job of making the journey enjoyable and still managed to squeeze a few unexpected surprises on you. Adam Scott steals the show in what is clearly the main role of the film. Every storyline, every scene revolves around his character, his often hilarious and occasionally emotionally charged conversations are the major attraction of this movie. His performance a subtle blend of mania and emotion, humour and sincerity.

From the second the film opens he creates a powerful portrait of a man on the edge of sanity; a seemingly bi-polar state of being that veers from bursts of self important ranting to overwhelming pain, a walking contradiction doing one thing and saying another, immediately apologising for acting like a lunatic and treating everyone around him like dirt but ultimately exposing at his core a sad man struggling with the loneliness of the life he has created for himself. Much like a character from a Martin Amis novel, Caleb seems determined to ruin everything good in his life all the while knowing that his actions will hurt both himself and those around him; a doomed anti-hero whose fate lies in his own hands.

It was his performance that led me to find Party Down on icefilms and his performance in Party Down that led me back to watching The Vicious Kind again. I can't wait to watch Operation Endgame with him and Zach Galifianakis simply because they're both beardy and awesome.

The other characters are less well defined, Alex Frost may have learned to act a bit better than when he was in Elephant but he wasn't exactly stretched by the role of Caleb's younger brother Peter. There are definitely some unexplored depths to Peter, his prudish Rebublican demeanor being a shock to his brother for example, leaving the feeling that he was little more than a two dimensional plot device. Brittany Snow does very well as Emma, a role that could quite easily have become another flat uninteresting character, a teenage girl written by a twenty-something guy is never going to be a truly accurate portrait BUT she takes an averagely written character and adds depth and emotion. By the end of the film Emma is an actual character, I don't want to throw in any spoilers but I felt as a man that it was as close to real as you get from a male centric movie. My fiance agreed with this so I can safely say that this was a top quality performance from Brittany Snow. JK Simmons is his usual excellent self, full of energy and oozing charisma, finding it easy to switch from his trademark humourous dad routine to another character with an emotionally damaged core thanks to an unhappy past.

Film craft wise it was a good solid piece of work, a perfectly framed, tightly cut and occasional use of unobtrusive handheld camerawork. Having said that, Krieger finds plenty of time to partake in the essential long moody sequences expected of a character driven indie piece, giving the audience time to reflect on the internal journey being taken by Caleb to the music found on the alt-folk soundtrack.

Enough rambling I feel. Check the movie out, it's excellent, well worth 90 minutes of your life in my opinion. And let me know how you like it.

The Vicious Kind (2009) DivX -