In a roadside diner somewhere in Connecticut, on a snowy afternoon, Caleb Sinclair takes a momentary break from his omnipresent cigarettes to tell his younger brother Peter (Alex Frost), whom Caleb is reluctantly chauffeuring home for Thanksgiving holiday, that all women are whores. So begins the misanthropic and misogynistic journey of The Vicious Kind, the new feature by precocious writer/director Lee Toland Krieger (at 24-years-old and two feature-length movies under his belt, precocious may be an understatement).
You see, Caleb, played with gritty intensity by the dewy-eyed Adam Scott, has a bone to pick with women. His now-deceased mother was kicked out of the house when it was discovered that she was allegedly cheating on his father (J.K. Simmons) and he was recently kicked to the curb by his latest girlfriend. Adding to the tension is the fact that their third wheel on this home-bound trip is Peter's new girlfriend, Emma (Brittany Snow), who bears a striking resemblance to Caleb's lost love.
It's in these first few moments and sharp exchanges that we realize that there is a good guy and there is a bad guy in this flick, and their characters are fairly set in stone. But there is something in those eyes that, even when Caleb is verbally or physically vicious, you still want him to get what he desires.
Therein lies the problem: Caleb's desires are in direct contention with each other. While he wants to protect his brother from certain heartbreak at the hands of what he suspects is just some little chippy, he increasingly desires that this guilty-until-proven-innocent heart breaker belong to him. When it comes right down to it, Peter is such a doormat that you wouldn't really mind if his argyle-encased heart got torn to shreds; hell, you might even prefer it that way if it keeps Caleb on the move and in the frame.
Scott's performance is at times quiet, at times terrifying, but always captivating. His vulnerability is as fierce as his anger, and you are never quite sure which end of the animal you are going to get. Scott owns the screen and is supported by the confident direction of Toland Krieger and the stunningly beautiful cinematography of Bradley Stonesifer.
This is a tale of "what they don't know can't hurt 'em", both in truth and in emotion, and whether they know it yet or not, there won't be much to give thanks for this time around.
The Vicious Kind is co-presented by the Marfa Film Festival and will screen a final time this evening at 9:30 p.m. at the Arbor Cinema, which means there should be plenty of seats for badge holders and general admission alike. Highly Recommended.