Why “We Need To Talk About Kevin” Was the Worst Movie of 2011.

"Dear, we need to talk about Kevin." "Nah, let's not."
And then, they didn't.
You know when people walk out of movies like “Transformers” or “Resident Evil: Retribution”, there’s one invariable “everyman critic” review: “Yeah, the effects and technical aspects are flawless, but what are those worth when the acting and screenplay are so terrible?”

Seriously. Every fucking time. It’s documented.

I will start off—err, this paragraph—by saying that I really enjoy both the “Transformers” and “Resident Evil” franchises for what they are, despite all their inherent terribleness. I find it incredibly easy to enjoy stuff I want to enjoy, and it takes a special kind of terribleness for me to really, really walk out of a movie huffing smoke out of my nose.

The title up there isn’t a hyperbole. I will be a bit fair and say that I did see two movies that were worse than “We Need To Talk About Kevin” last year, one of which I can confidently say is the worst movie I have seen in my entirelife. I will ignore those two capital sins against the zeitgeist because, let’s be honest, who gives a fuck about two terrible Mexican movies thankfully no one saw? I regret bringing them up right now.

So “We Need To Talk About Kevin” was a critically praised indie movie (apparently based on a novel I have no interest in) starring the “Is it weird I find her hot?” Tilda Swinton and the always—and I mean always—likable John C. Reilly, built around the subject of a school mass shooting/killing—something that will always be a touchy subject best approached carefully in any situation. The problem with this premise is that, complex a subject as though it is, there’s rarely much to say about it through fiction. Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant”? Sure, it was a technically impressive, powerfully acted, largely realistic movie, but other than having our guts churned, did it really have any interesting to say? Not really but it sure as hell tried to explore the horrible drama within the school and the kids involved, and that’s why it’s a superior film.

Now, the twist that made me very much interested in this movie was that it supposedly didn’t explore the shooting itself, but what happens with the freaked out parents afterwards. Now we’re talking! That’s something we don’t ever see, and is no doubt interesting and dramatic. Except, oh bloody whoops. “We Need To Talk About Kevin” isn’t about that at all. Someone fucked up when turning the premise into a screenplay, and boy it was the Challenger of fuck-ups.

See, the problem with this deceiving little git is that it isn’t just not about the interesting aftermath; it’s isn’t about anything at all. Worse still, during its torturous length and through its plodding pacing, any semblance of drama we do get is repetitive and impossibly shallow. You see, this movie isn’t an exploration on evil. Evil is hard to talk about casually, and is certainly very hard to represent on screen, especially its fundaments.

Ladies and gentlemen: Evil!
“We Need To Talk About Kevin” could’ve been about the proverbial question: when is evil born? Yet,  it isn’t. One could maybe argue that it kinda tried, but any aspects of the topic approached here are so fucking absurd and/or classless it’s hard to take it as seriously as it begs to be taken.

The elements that represent Kevin’s supposedly innate evil come right out of the “Evil Child 4 Dummies” checklist; we get him torturing animals, lying (with one hell of a straight face because that is evil as fuck), even playing violent video games while hilariously yelling “Die! Die! Die!” Oh, and there’s the incredibly flat bit where he’s jerking off and, his mother walks in on him, and he just keeps going with a really, really cheesy smile for which I blame the director—and not the actor, who was to be fair doing a great job with the material given.

Oh, by the way: Kevin’s sexuality is never ever touched upon; god forbid something interesting about this little shit was revealed.

The movie culminates (re: doesn’t start) with the actual school shooting which takes place at the school gym that Kevin somehow managed to stealthily shut close with bike locks. Then, he goes Katniss against his classmates with a bow and arrow. A fucking bow and arrow. I suppose saying something about weapon control in the US was out of the question? I don’t know if this was supposed to be a comment on “Durr, you gotta be careful what gifts you give your child!” but damn, it sure takes punch away from a scene that had every right to be horrifying. Oh, because unlike “Elephant”, which framed a truly terrifying shooting scene, this one happens completely off-screen. I swear to Fenrir, “Space Buddies” had bigger balls than this borderline offensive waste of time.

I think the aggregated amount of time spent on the actual aftermath of the shooting (which is shown through flashbacks/forwards; can’t tell with the disjointed narrative), is about ten minutes. Not kidding. And even these scenes, which are admittedly the few interesting bits, don’t really have anything new or unexpected. Tilda’s character is ostracized, blamed, estranged from the townsfolk, obviously being blamed for raising such a little hellion, with the exception of one of the shooting’s survivors which happens to be actually supportive. That kid was the one original thing.

So in the end, “We Need To Talk About Kevin” amounts to nothing more than two hours of a one-dimensional little turd torturing the fuck out of his poor mother—and only his mother, as his dad and adorable little sister seem to think Kevin is a stand-up chap.

Again, none of this is a hyperbole. There’s nothing more than one “Kevin vs. Mom, Kevin inexplicably wins” scenario after another. Like I said, there’s no exploration of Kevin’s evil—or even Kevin’s character—whatsoever, no actual causal flow of events or narrative arc, because this entire movie is one long “Act I”, so the truly interesting aspects the movie should have amounted to never came. It spent the time it should’ve spent moving forward trying really hard to make us see how fucking evil Kevin has always been.

Which is a disappointment in itself. Wouldn’t it have been far more interesting to have someone that’s always been a saint to suddenly Satan out? There’s nothing unexpected or unique here, which is why sitting through it is so draining and mind-numbing.

And no, I don’t hate this movie because it’s one-dimensional. I certainly don’t hate it because it’s draining (most of my favorite movies, such as “The End of Evangelion”, “The Constant Gardener” or “Children of Men” are huge bummers). I hate it because it’s one complete and utter failure. It tried to approach controversy, but did so with a pussy the size of Neptune. It tried exploring primal and terrifying aspects of humankind, but had no clue how to do so and ended up a parody. I hated it because it promised to be something powerful and profound, and turned out to be wimpy and shallow—and worst of all, boring to boot.

So I’m honestly genuinely astounded by the overwhelmingly positive reception this movie had. Are critics—and arthouse nerds—seriously so easily impressed by touchy subjects? Were people really buying Kevin’s character as anything other than the shameless caricature it is? Are people too afraid of being called “sick” for admitting that there’s nothing shocking or extreme in this movie? Or is it that the aspects the movie does succeed in, which have nothing to do with the story, enough to make them forget that everything else was garbage?

Tilda Swinton’s acting is phenomenal. But—and here’s when I come full circle to that opening thought—who gives a shit about one triumphant aspect when everything else is so unimaginably terrible? Do indie movies get this license whereas Michael Bay doesn’t? I think that’s it, and I think that’s horseshit.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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