¨A new comedy of no manners.¨
Roman Polanski is a great director, there is no denying his trajectory (Rosemary`s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), and his latest film, The Ghost Writer, was amongst my favorite movies of last year, but Carnage was a bit of a disappointment for me. Perhaps I was expecting more going into this movie considering Polanski was directing it and knowing it had a spectacular cast: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz. Carnage was nowhere near as good as I thought it would be, but it still isn`t a bad movie. It has some witty dialogues, several funny scenes, and of course great performances. There is nothing wrong with the cast; they all did a great job with their characters and Jodie Foster should receive an Oscar nomination for her role; the problem I had was mainly with the story. It takes place entirely in an apartment building and the conversations made me feel so awkward and unsteady that I couldn`t wait for the couple to leave the room. They seem to continue going on in circles criticizing one another, while slowly escalating their tones. Of course there are several really funny moments and John C. Reilly steals most laughs, but the film just felt too simplistic. Another problem I had with it was the length; it lasts less than 80 minutes. I suspect Carnage worked much better in the theater since it was based on the play written by Yasmina Reza (The God of Carnage), but it just didn’t translate really well in the big screen. Reza and Polanski both worked in the adaptation of the script. Carnage is a funny, simple movie, but not very memorable.
The premise of the movie is pretty simple. We have two couples that decide to meet at their New York apartment after their kids had a big fight and one of them lost two teeth in the process. On the one hand we have Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) Longstreet who`s child (Ethan) was the victim, and on the other we have Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) who`s child (Zachary) was responsible for beating the other with a stick. At first they decide to meet cordially and try to solve the issue in a friendly matter, but the tone begins to escalate after Penelope asks the Cowan`s if they could bring Zachary over to apologize for the incident. Nancy says she could bring her son over, but Alan has no intention of coming back since he sees the entire issue pointless. All he cares for is getting back to work and that is why he is constantly on the phone. Penelope on the other hand wants to solve the issue peacefully, but she is more of an idealist than a realist. The entire conversation begins to heat up and after a couple of drinks the violent words begin to cross from one point of the room to the other. The entire movie takes place inside this apartment, although in the beginning we get to see the incident between the kids in the park from afar.
Carnage is a movie that points out human behavior. While we`re kids we seem to have no trouble at expressing our feelings and emotions. Kids fight all the time. When we grow up and become adults it seems like we leave those child ways behind; or at least we try to contain our emotions and we put on our masks to act like everything is fine. That is the case with both couples in the movie. They meet in order to solve a conflict that began with their kids, but they blow it way out of proportions after their own masks become falling off. Adults can be violent as well, perhaps they won`t grab a stick and hit someone in the face, but they do curse at each other and begin a verbal war. Carnage is a verbal war that begins cordial and ends with violent outbursts and infantile behavior. We try to act like adults, but when we reach our boiling point we end up acting worse than the kids. Perhaps the only character that never wears a mask in Carnage is Alan who always shows his disinterest in the entire situation. At times I felt the same way he did towards the movie, but I did enjoy the witty dialogue at others. All these characters were really unlikeable people and as the minutes went by they just got worse. The performances were really great despite the fact that we could care less for the characters. Carnage isn’t a bad movie, it`s funny, but it won`t rank among Polanski`s best work. If you’re a fan of him or any of these actors than you might want to check this movie out.