To see Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is to watch a biting deconstruction of societal norms, manners, and fake gestures to others for the purpose of “pleasing” them. I am a high school student, therefore I identify with these themes more than most others. You feel me?
“Carnage” sports four wonderfully talented actors — John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster, & Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet playing respective married couples. The four, cooped up in a Brooklyn apartment, are there to resolve a dispute regarding their young sons, one of which took a weapon to the other’s face. “Carnage”, at a mercifully short yet just right 79-minute length, is simply a chronicle of their initially cordial but progressively aggressive conversation (+5 consonance points!) — which begins with smiles and drinks yet turns into total insanity.
Although Roman Polanski’s films have been leaning a bit towards the large-scale recently, one only need look at his 1960s’ output to see that this man tells tightly-focused, one-location stories exceptionally well. Be it a yacht in “Knife in the Water” or an apartment in “Repulsion”, he paints his environments dynamically but claustrophobically — never dull, but always on-edge.
And these four actors — what magic they make together. I can’t think of any other people who could out-perform this cast, so distinct are their personalities yet priceless their interactions. It makes my heart warm that Christoph Waltz has still got it, given that his largely uninspired post-“Inglourious Basterds” work. John C. Reilly embodies the lovable-dunce-of-a-father archetype exceptionally well.
The women in this film, however, give “Carnage” its heart, soul and chaos. Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet begin the film on flip-sides of the coin, one much more sympathetic than the other. But as the film progresses, all their little niceties and mannerisms crumble away, revealing what’s really at their soul. It ain’t pretty. “Carnage” isa work razor-sharp in observation and humor, although it’s hard not to wonder if it’s an after-thought for its legendary participants. B+