Monday, March 4, 2013


Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Director: Roman Polanski
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Rated: R

If you’re a fan of theatre of the absurd - Samuel Beckett and the like - look no further than Roman Polanski’s film “Carnage.” Though it features an all-star cast, I knew the film had high expectations to live up to, as the play “God of Carnage” received much praise after its premiere in 2006. Translating stage to screen isn’t always easy (though it’s become quite popular to do so: “Hairspray,” “Doubt,” etc.) but Polanski transforms this bizarre story into an entertaining, albeit stressful dark comedy.

A little juicy history for you: In 1978, Polanski fled the United States after being convicted of sexual assault on a minor. It’s a shame such a brilliant director (namely, “The Pianist” and “Chinatown”) could be so twisted. He currently resides in France, I believe, and still knows how to make a masterpiece.

The entire 80 minutes (save for the opening and closing credits) take place in a Brooklyn apartment. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are a liberal, art-enthusiast couple, whose son was “attacked” by the son of an uptight power couple, played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. And by “attacked,” I mean a twig threw a twig at another twig. Though the children resolved their petty disagreement almost instantaneously, the parents end up investing much more in the situation. Their attempt at handling the issue maturely turns into utter chaos – carnage, by definition means “bloody slaughter.”

Among the absurdities: One-sided cell phone conversations that last moments too long. A five minute discussion of cobbler – granted, it really made me crave some. Kate vomits on Jodie’s precious art book, and John C. Reilly attempts to dry it with a hairdryer. Christoph’s cell phone gets tossed in a bowl of water, and Reilly and the hairdryer run to the rescue again, to which Jodie hysterically exclaims “my husband has been drying things all afternoon!”

The always-astounding Kate Winslet plays an excellent drunk. Though she’s wound tightly, we feel sorry for her being stuck in a loveless marriage. Christoph Waltz’s sexy Austrian accent was slightly noticeable – I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be or not. He seemed natural as a workaholic. Character actor John C. Reilly starts out as a likeable peace-maker among the couples, but later completely loses his mind. During the entire film, Jodie Foster’s head looks like it’s about to explode. This is the most outrageous character I’ve ever seen her play and she was obviously the standout, though it’s because she was given the best part, with the most material to work with.

It would be impossible to be married to any of these self-indulgent, egomaniacal characters. You could smell the tension, and knew that at any minute someone would pop. The film is increasingly frustrating. The ending credits show the two children playing outside, completely over the situation, while the adults just cannot find peace.

It’s obvious this was originally written for the stage; some of the lines just felt awkward. And it’s a good thing this movie was only 80 minutes, because I don’t think I could handle much more of their squabble. You definitely don't get bored with the story, just be prepared to get stressed out, with the occasional laugh.

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