Tuesday, March 02, 2010
His brother's keeper
By Edward Copeland
It's probably not good to say (and it certainly doesn't help their egos) but no matter how great a director is or how good a screenplay is, the success of a film will ultimately rise or fall on the strength of its cast. As in the case of writer-director Lee Toland Krieger's The Vicious Kind, it would just be an average, fine indie but the talented performers lift the movie to a higher plane.
Of the cast, the standout and main focus is Adam Scott as Caleb Sinclaire, a cynical man, estranged from his dad (the always welcome J.K. Simmons) and protective older brother to Peter (Alex Frost) who agrees to drive Peter and his new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) from college to his father's house for a Thanksgiving visit, one Caleb is not invited to attend.
To say that Caleb's feelings toward women are confused is an understatement. His mom left the family when his kid brother was young and died soon after so as far Caleb is concerned, all women can turn out to be a whore who can betray you in the end. (You can smell the influence of executive producer Neil LaBute in the dialogue.) At least that's the front Caleb likes to put out toward the world. Scott's performance plays all sides beautifully, wonderfully straddling the line between being funny, being a jerk, being pathetic and being downright scary at times.
He has a purpose though. His suspicions of all women are mainly there to protect the very naive Peter, making sure he's not hurt by Emma, who Caleb assumes might be another worldly woman who has been around the block. A problem arises in his efforts: Caleb begins to develop a bit of an unhealthy obsession about Emma himself. Before he met here, he was a man who hardly ever slept and depended on hookers for companionship. Once she enters his life, he starts to be able to sleep again and what began as an effort to watch out for Peter becomes a desire to have Emma for himself.
Snow, who first gained noticed as a young actress on the now-defunct daytime drama Guiding Light and then on NBC's American Dreams, shows some of her strongest acting chops yet here as Emma. Her performance pulls some real surprises and her scenes with Scott are what really power the entire film. If there is a weak link in what is essentially a four-person drama, it's Frost, but that may be due to the character he's playing more than the actor.
Krieger's writing proves stronger than his direction which makes it a get thing that The Vicious Kind turns out to be a short trip. It's not a particularly remarkable film, but it does contain performances from Scott, Snow and Simmons strong enough to make it worth recommending on a slow day.