Sony Film Classics
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Said Ben Said
Screenplay by Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza
Based on the play “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza
When the end credits of CARNAGE scrolled on the screen I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the animated movie “The Point” which is the lesson learned by the main character Oblio who is the only round-headed person in a land where everything and everyone has a point. The lesson: You don’t have to have a point to have a point.
What has this got to do with CARNAGE? Well, I just threw it out there so that if and when you decide to watch it you won’t be taken by surprise by the movie’s conclusion which isn’t really a conclusion.
Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) visit the Brooklyn condo of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) to discuss a recent incident involving their sons. During a playground dispute, the Cowan boy hit the Longstreet boy with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. The parents have decided to meet to avoid legal foofaraw and resolve the matter themselves. Penelope insists they they can work this out in a civilized manner. Turns out that she’s wrong. As the discussion gets more involved as the two couples discuss marriage, parenthood, their jobs and their lives, civilized behavior begins to deteriorate. And once the apple cobbler, 12 year old Scotch and cigars come out, things really begin to heat up.
Penelope is insistent that societal responsibility must be adhered to and blame assigned. Michael strives to remain the genial and affable host, struggling to contain his short temper and naturally abrasive manner. Nancy resents being in competition with Alan’s Blackberry which he seems to prefer talking to during the meeting rather than the Longstreets. What starts out as a simple meeting soon turns into the four people dissecting each other verbally, cutting away the false faces they wear to get along in the world and getting at who they really are underneath.
Now, don’t worry that we’re getting into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” territory here. Although the movie could have easily gone that way, it doesn’t. Instead, it’s surprisingly light and funny. The characters don’t really go for each other’s jugular, instead we get them throwing solid jabs at each other but never going for a knockout punch.
What we have here are four really fine actors just…well, acting. 99% of the movie takes place inside of the Longstreet apartment with just the four actors. And it is fun to watch them at work. Especially John C. Reilly who stole the movie every chance he got, as far as I was concerned. But everybody gets a chance to shine and they do. For some, this movie may be too much like a filmed play but I didn’t have a problem with it. Matter of fact, I prefer to watch my plays this way, especially when they are this well-acted.
Well, maybe just two problems. It does get a little tiresome to have the Cowans continually attempt to leave the apartment only to have to return. And I can’t see four people getting that drunk on one bottle of Scotch. But at one point, Alan does say; “That’s some Scotch,” so maybe it is possible.
So should you see CARNAGE? You should if you like the actors involved and want to see them throwing witty, sharp dialog at each other. There’s really no plot here, no story, no stirring resolution or life-changing epiphany. Just four great actors doing what they do best.
Rated R for language as there is no violence or sex at all.