“The Vicious Kind” is, at times, hard to stomach. Full of relatively good people doing horrible things to each other, the film never lets up, leaving me with a pessimistic and hopeless view of humanity. Not that that’s always a bad thing.
With a conversation reminiscent of “Roger Dodger,” “The Vicious Kind” opens with Caleb (Adam Scott) lecturing his younger brother, Peter (Alex Frost), on the general sluttiness of all women. Having been recently cheated on, Caleb is unable to separate Peter’s girlfriend, Emma (Brittany Snow), from the image of his ex-girlfriend he still resents so much. This leads to multiple scenes of awkwardness as the depressed, sleep-deprived Caleb switches from hatred to love for Emma in the blink of an eye.
Caleb also has major problems with his father (J.K. Simmons) who he hasn’t spoken to in eight years. Within this group of seriously messed up individuals, they all seem to get along with the angelic Peter, who remains innocently clueless throughout the film.
Shot conventionally (no one ever speaks a line without the camera placing them perfectly on the rule of thirds lines), the film relies heavily on its performances and writing. When one performance is lacking, or one line falters, the mistake is hard to cover up. Adam Scott shines. Coming off his terribly scripted performance in “Step Brothers,” I was pleasantly surprised at what this guy can do. Every mood change was perfect, and his multiple apologizes always seem sincere. Likewise, J.K. Simmons was incredible as always. However, when these two weren’t gracing the screen, Brittany Snow and Alex Frost were cringe-worthy and so very CW Network.
But imperfect acting aside, my problem with the film wasn’t its negative outlook or conventional style. Instead, I worry about the characterizations here. With the only women represented on screen actually living up to Caleb’s initial statements about their sluttiness, the film seems to inadvertently affirm this attitude. Perhaps the intention was to claim that no one is perfect, men or women, but there are men represented that remain honest and faithful, while there are no women. Taking the time to detail all the characteristics of its male characters, the film leaves some women (such as a waitress in the very first scene and the prostitute Caleb uses to get even with his ex-girlfriend) as no more than just tits and a*s.
Even in a film attempting to seriously explore its characters’ relationships with one another, the female mind remains largely unrepresented. It’s disappointing that such a smart and thoughtful film ignores this inconsistency.