Carnage (2011 France/Germany/Poland/Spain)

Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play “God of Carnage” was adapted by the playwright herself for Roman Polanski’s 2011 film version, renamed “Carnage.” Reza’s word feast is a juicy smörgåsbord for actors and a showcase for the film’s four stars. Despite the glow of bagging 6 Oscars and 17 nominations, the four actors were evidently chosen for talent and range, not luster; all are better known for their on-screen and on-stage work, than their tabloid antics. Carnage is a short 80 minutes. Its fast paced, often funny, well written, superbly acted – and that rarity in cinema – it leaves the bastards hungry for more.

An 11-year-old boy hits another 11-year-old boy with a stick on a Brooklyn playground, and the concerned parents meet to discuss the incident. Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslett, parents of Zach, the boy who wielded the stick, visit the home of John C. Reilly and Jody Foster, parents of Ethan, the boy with the missing teeth; the two couples intend to develop a plan of action to defuse the situation, soothe the pain, and prevent a recurrence. Lofty goals that lead down unexpected paths; the injuries and punishment take a back seat to simmering marital frustrations, overt class warfare, and personality conflicts.

Waltz, a successful attorney, and Winslett, an investment broker, are obviously well off, somewhat aloof, and willing to solve everything by paying the bills. However, Foster is not easily put off, argues about semantics, and the seemingly polite talk about whether Ethan carried a stick or was “armed” with a stick quickly deteriorates into verbal sparring over parental responsibility. Waltz and Winslett have several opportunities to leave and twice reach the elevator. Waltz, however, is seemingly addicted to coffee. They are easily lured back into Foster’s lair, not once, but twice, baited by Reilly’s coffee and Foster’s notorious apple-and-pear cobbler. The baked fruit delicacy leads to hilarious consequences, as do a vase of fresh flowers, Waltz’s cell phone, and Foster’s coffee table art books.

Workaholic Waltz is glued to his cell phone and constantly interrupts the verbal exchanges with calls to and from clients. Meanwhile, cool sophisticated Winslett has every hair in place, until the cobbler and a bottle of Scotch loosen her up, literally and figuratively. John Reilly, initially the laid-back man of reason, eventually erupts, and he exposes both his sexual frustrations with Foster – his tightly wound neat-freak wife – and his resentment of the arrogant, socially superior Waltz. While the scotch bottle empties, the verbal sparring ratchets up. Like an evening with George and Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” this Brooklyn foursome is not good company, except for the audience. The camera has little room to move, but that only emphasizes the close- quarters domestic combat. Bring it on!

Insults fly, a cell phone is drowned, loyalties shift and a dessert gets hurled over a coffee table. Foster, Reilly, Winslett, and Waltz all give top-notch performances. No upstaging, no star turns, a well-rehearsed, seamless ensemble at its best. The film’s one false note is the production design. Reilly and Foster’s apartment is an interior decorator’s dream; the furniture and appliances are pricey and likely out of reach for the couple portrayed; while the ordered, color coordinated rooms could be consistent with the Foster character, Reilly seems too casual to live there comfortably, unless they have an “Odd Couple” marriage. However, art direction is a small point, and the set fades into the background when the fireworks start.

Advertisements

Comments

  1. I like the parallelism in the film. The adults fight like children.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Exactly, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Couldn’t agree more, all the performances in this film are brilliant and the script is razor-sharp!

    I have always had an affinity for this film, it’s very human. Jody Foster’s character in particular reminds me of my family’s matriarch to a T.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: