Sunday, August 21, 2011

"31 Movies, 31 Days": #16 The Vicious Kind

Movie: The Vicious Kind (2009)
Budget: not published, but probably about $1-2 million

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Format: Netflix streaming

The Vicious Kind is the "kind" of independent movie I love to stumble upon...the kind few people have heard of and even fewer people have seen. Within the first five minutes I knew this was a movie I would add to my indie lock-box, a treasure chest housing such personal favorites as Kicking and Screaming, Barcelona, and Simple Men. That's not to say The Vicious Kind is a perfect film, or even a great film for that matter, but it's one of those movies that instantly got inside my head and reminded me why, once upon a time, I endeavored to be a professional screenwriter. In particular, the bitter dialogue from the opening scene strongly reminded me of similar moments from Hal Hartley's Simple Men...the movie I largely credit for first getting me to put pen to paper over 15 years ago.

Two of the three movies I listed above, Kicking and Screaming and Barcelona, have a particular actor in common---Christopher Eigeman. Oh, sure, it's a "different" character in name and occupation in each movie, but Eigeman is well known for playing the overly intellectual smart-ass who turns every line into a wicked, biting, almost snobby comment...and that's who he plays in both of those classics. It's his persona which made those movies classics for me. The Vicious Kind stars the man whom I believe has now taken that "persona" mantle from Eigeman: Adam Scott. Scott is probably best known for his current work on Parks and Recreation, but hopefully you've also seen him as the star of Party Down, a hilarious show which ran for two seasons on Starz. Scott is not an actor with a lot of range at this point in his career, but the range within which he works is a sweet spot for both him and me.

In The Vicious Kind, Scott plays Caleb Sinclaire, a man who's recently had his heart broken by a cheating woman...cuz bitches always be doin' that. Piling on to his agony, his little brother's new girlfriend bares a passing resemblance to his ex, a matter further complicated by their apparent attraction to one another. The result of all these complicated feelings is a lot of "vicious", misanthropic remarks by Scott that are wickedly funny. He's the most likable asshole you'll never hope to meet. Now, if this description of the plot sounds like a quirky romantic comedy to you, let me assure you it's not. There's a darkness underlying Scott's character and the movie slowly shifts away from humor to the more serious issues which plague himself and his family. Indie regular J.K. Simmons has a nice turn (is he bad in anything?) as his estranged father, and Brittany Snow plays the brother's new girlfriend. She makes it easy to understand why Caleb goes off the deep end upon meeting her.

The biggest problem with The Vicious Kind, one which I was mostly able to overlook, is accepting Scott's more dramatic moments. It's a little like watching Bill Murray the first time he tried to tackle a serious role in The Razor's Edge. It's not that Scott (or Murray) isn't capable of being serious, but when all you've ever seen is the same kind of character, one usually engaged in sarcastic comedy, there's a bit of an adjustment when you see them turn violent, or begin to weep. Scott shows enough promise that I expect he, too, will be able to evolve as an actor as Murray did later in his career. As Scott's star continues to rise (he has no fewer than five movies in various stages of production), this role will rightfully be looked back upon as a major stepping stone.

Kraig's Rating: 8/10

Movie #1: Skyline
Movie #2: Killers
Movie #3: The Iron Giant
Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau
Movie #5: Rubber
Movie #6: The Fighter
Movie #7: The Winning Season
Movie #8: World's Greatest Dad
Movie #9: Hobo With a Shotgun
Movie #10: The Lincoln Lawyer
Movie #11: Stake Land
Movie #12: Horrible Bosses
Movie #13: Brooklyn's Finest
Movie #14: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Movie #15: Devil


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