Now Showing on Cable: “Carnage”

Making its debut this weekend on Starz was last year’s “Carnage”.

Directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, “Carnage” is a comedy based on a stage play. After a school yard altercation, the parents of the two boys involved get together briefly to discuss the incident. But what begins as a brief meeting to resolve an issue escalates into a quite a row.

Two sets of parents meet after their children are involved in a fight. Foster and Reilly play the parents of the assaulted child, while Winslet and Waltz play the parents of the boy who struck him. The two couples get together to civilly hash out how they’ll handle the discipline, but slowly frustrations between to emerge. Further, every time the visiting couple attempt to extricate themselves from the visit, circumstances intervene to preclude them from leaving and wind up extending the situation.

All four people are uptight in some fashion or another. Waltz is humorless and droll. He’s a high powered lawyer who keeps getting interrupted by his cell phone. Reilly is affable, but suppressed and frustrated by his wife. Foster is angered by the altercation between the children and has difficulty getting past it in conversation. In fact, she often tries to advise the other couple how to discipline their child. Winslet tries as best she can to keep the peace, but winds up having difficulties of her own.

As the couples debate turns towards argument, it also escalates beyond the boundaries of the schoolyard incident and into marriage, life, and social issues. The couples eventually begin to fight amongst themselves, the booze comes out, and then the fighting really starts.

The film is based on a stage play, and it has that feel to it. “Carnage” doesn’t leave the apartment, and rarely leaves the living room. The four trade lines of dialogue at a rapid pace, and it’s easy to envision them putting this on live. It’s fun to watch the situation slowly deteriorate, especially when John C. Reilly interjects his trademark dullard humor in-between the three quibbling intellectual characters. And there are certainly some excellent lines and a couple of really funny surprise moments along the way.

I did have some issues with it, though. The first being that, for such a short film (only 80 minutes), “Carnage” takes a while to get going. I understand they wanted to set the stakes, and establish a serious jumping off point, but it’s not all that enjoyable watching two couples bitch at each other over their kids. The other being that… and I don’t know how to say this without encroaching spoiler territory, but for a movie ABOUT an argument, I would have liked to have seen more… resolution. Let’s just say it that way.

It certainly had plenty of laughs along the way, but “Carnage” is a film that makes you work for them.

B

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27 thoughts on “Now Showing on Cable: “Carnage”

  1. Agree with pretty much everything you said here Fogs. It was enjoyable enough and was good value for its runtime but I wouldn’t have wanted it any longer. Even at that length there were a couple of times I found my attention wandering. But there were some funny moments; the Winslet vomiting scene in particular did make me laugh. I found the actual subject of the argument little more than a mcguffin though, it was definitely more of a character piece and they argument was little more than a plot device to get them all together in the first place.

    • Yeah… or I guess one could say ultimately that the children reflect the parents, or that the kids are actually better behaved… there’s not a lot to read into, I dont think it has a lot to “say” even though its characters do SAY a lot. LOL

  2. Comedy? I don’t think so. I know it was sold as such in the ads and trailers, but this is pure drama. Alot can be inferred from this movie starting with why was Polanski so interested in the first place? His crimes have come back to haunt him and he had a lot of time in Switzerland to think about it. This play/film could be his reasoning why everyone should let by gones be bygones. All this anger and fury over what? Nothing in the end. Or so he’d like us to think.
    Redress of grievances, loss of civility, moral superiority, all this contained in a 80 minute showdown between two polar pair of parents. Politics, religion, hatred and warfare in a nuclear nutshell. What did you think when Nancy(Winslet) said, “I’m glad my kid hit your son and I wipe my ass with your Human Rights”. A United Nations speech before NATO invades Russia? Terrific stuff here but I wasn’t laughing I was too worried about mankind’s maladies!

    • Wow. Not me. This had little value in that regard, for me, frankly. It was comedic to watch them devolve into kids on the schoolyard shoving at each other, but aside from that, I have little interest in analyzing subtext here. I dont think its worth it….

      • I don’t believe Polanski would be interested in anything as mundane as two quarreling families or shoving schoolyard kids and neither would this Oscar-laden cast. The “bigger” picture definitely applies here.

    • It’s a dark comedy, certainly. The original stage play, of which the film is basically a straight adaptation, won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2009.

  3. Mainly to be watched for the performances, and the performances alone. The only problem I had with this flick was that in order to keep this story going, the movie had to find a way to keep them in the same room so it felt a bit contrived at times. However, it was still a darkly comedic flick. Good review Fogs.

    • Thanks Dan. You’re right, man, they did everything short of have the elevator break down. :D They should have just done this – RING BRING “Hello? Oh, Ok.” (click) That was the doorman, he says no ones allowed to leave the building for the next hour. :D

      Youre right, the performances were all pretty good. Reilly cracked me up, as always. He’s hysterical.

    • Sure, but you have to keep in mind that you’re essentially watching the screen adaptation of a stage play. If you approach it as such, it’s quite entertaining see the ways in which they kept returning to the apartment. Those were dramatic moments that built the tension.

  4. I was interested in seeing this one since I like much of Polanski’s work but missed in theaters. I’m not sure if I still want to see it now, but it looks good, plus it has some of my favorite actors in it. Nice review.

    • It’s not a very “Must See” movie. It was alright. Definitely had some laughs along the way… I’d recommend it if you get a chance, but I wouldnt worry about it if it slips by you. Its a fun play turned movie, but aside from that, it’s not a great flick or anything… fun enough.

  5. I enjoyed it, but people ought to be forewarned that this is an adaptation of a play and will mostly be of interest to people (like me) who don’t get out to the theatre as often as they would like but enjoy stage drama nonetheless. You have to consider it alongside other films whose confined settings and dialogue driven structure indicate were obviously stage plays originally, e.g. Glengarry Glen Ross, 12 Angry Men (TV play but stage before film), etc.
    Those might be bad examples to bring up, actually, because they’re both better than Carnage.

    • Exactly. LOL. “Doubt” is as well. :)

      I’d give it a certain amount of leniency due to the fact that it’s based on a play, but as far as I’m concerned, a movie still needs to validate itself on the big screen… televised plays can go to TV.

      I liked it well enough even considering the limitation the sole setting and singular scene placed upon it. It was fun enough. :D

  6. I think B or B- is about what I gave it. Really good performances and a few laugh out loud moments. But it felt as though something was missing and you could definitely tell it was based on a play. Still a solid film.

  7. I have to say, I expected more from this. Like, A grade laughs, not B grade, like you’ve pointed out. It wasn’t a fail, but it got a little boring by the end. Perfect casting though, Foster/Reilly was awesome!

    • I’m with you, I had expected a little more as well. I heard great things going in, the cast was great, Polanski is very talented… I had thought it would be, well, more full of laughs, maybe. There was a lot of wading through arguments in order to get to the funny here.

  8. Yep, you’re spot on with this one, Fogs. It’s an enjoyable little movie with an unfortunately anticlimactic ending. Loved the performances, though.

    • The performances were all pretty good. I thought Jodie Foster was a little too shrill to handle. LOL. I understand that that’s her character, but still :)

      Yes, anticlimactic is the word, but its not even that. Its very… open ended, for lack of the proper term. I dont think, after all of that, that any progress was made at all!

  9. Nice review, Fogs. I was a bit let down by this one. I thought it was a bit boring, to be honest and sort of a mess. When everything devolved into chaos, so did the writing in a way. And the actors weren’t even trying (except Jodie, she was trying too hard).

    • Welllllllllll… ok. On the actors not even trying. I mean, I think they did a good job of getting all that rapid fire dialogue down, but none of them created memorable characters or anything, I’ll concede that. And Foster was more than a little shrill, no doubt.

      I was disappointed too. It was decent, but I had heard such good things. And the cast is phenomenal! At the end of the day, I liked it well enough, but I wont argue if you didnt. :D

  10. Really didn’t like this movie, the whole thing just kept dragging on. In real life these people would have left the apartment within the first 10 minutes…it felt artificial. I know it’s based on a play, but I really didn’t like it.

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