Vicious Kind

Marlon Brando is generally credited for moving film acting away from the sort of large theatrical performances that cinema had inherited from the live stage and moving it towards a sort of naturalism which relied on the camera’s closeness to pick up fine details of a performance. And while the ability to get really close to the action generally enhances movies, it can sometimes hurt them by exposing their faults. Take for example The Vicious Kind.

This movie is about the complex relation between four characters: a father, his two sons, and the younger son’s girlfriend. There’s a lot about this movie which is totally fine: the plot has a decent number of betrayals and reveals, the score is well suited to this type of sad-sack movie, all of the crying scenes look authentic enough... But what never works is the idea that these three men are actually related: every time you see them in a close up you can see that they have different hair color, different noses, different heights, different builds. All of these actors are capable, but it’s still a terrible example of casting.

If I saw these people in a play, I might be able to suspend my disbelief that they were family. Yes, the Adam Scott character is more slight than his brother or his father, but there’s a certain amount of creative license you could give from a distance; you could just chalk that one difference up to him taking after the absent mother. But there is no amount of magic short of adoption which would explain the preponderance of differences you see in those tight dialogue scenes. I kept thinking: Jesus, they didn’t even bother to buy hair dye for these guys, as if I wasn’t going to notice that a guy with reddish hair had a black haired son and a brown haired son.

I’m sure there are people out there would would be able to buy into this story and who would think that I’m being really pedantic. But the truth is that there is no reason why this is not a play; it’s an intimate story about a small family that might work better in a more intimate venue anyway. And if it was going to be a movie, it could have been done in a more cinematic way – one that did a bit of extra work to make the narrow focus look more interesting. Given that it’s been sixty years since cinema has really branched out and found it’s own style, however, I can’t see this movie, which is too staged for it’s own good, as anything but amateurish.

Winner: The Cat

The Vicious Kind on IMDB