Having your main character as a walking contradiction that changes his stance every few minutes is a tricky thing to pull off. One can associate that type of character with being nuanced, but an audience may tire from the flip flopping after a while. In The Vicious Kind, not only does Adam Scott make a character such as this work, but he also puts in one of the better performances I’ve seen in years.
Capable of being misogynistic in one moment, to complete asshole the next, then apologetic right after that, Adam Scott’s Caleb is an awful person. Though he loves his brother, Caleb shows him little respect, and even less respect to everyone else. At times violent and unpredictable, Scott turns in a heavily layered performance that is fascinating to watch. There’s a scene in a supermarket in which Caleb goes a bit insane and Scott is truly frightening in it.
After the first ten minutes, I was concerned this was going to be yet another quirky indie comedy. I was beginning to mentally tune out when director Lee Toland Kreiger chose to frame Caleb in as badass of a shot as he could muster. But then (while taking cues from Five Easy Pieces) The Vicious Kind begins to pick up steam as the script evolves Caleb past being an archetype. Both Brittany Snow and Alex Frost do a very commendable job in their roles, and their respective chemistry with Scott is what holds The Vicious Kind together.
It’s a shame that the film is bookended by its weakest sections. The ending was an incredibly disappointing copout. I may be seeing something that wasn’t there, but I could’ve sworn there was an homage to The Graduate‘s ending in the last few minutes. On the strength of the performances in The Vicious Kind, I was able to look past its shortcomings and walk away with the intention of revisiting in the future. For as much as I love Party Down and Parks and Recreation, I’m going to point people towards this movie to show them what Adam Scott is really capable of.