What is it that compels Oscar winning actress Kate Winslet to work with monsters? It is not like she is dying for work. I am sure she gets to pick and choose which films she works on. So why work with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. That is a question only she can answer…
Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Chinatown) helms this film with the screenplay by Yasmina Reza (Bella Figura), which is based on her play. Polanski has not changed much in the respect that Carnage is pretty much done in the style of a play. Most of it takes place in one or two rooms within a New York City apartment and it is really about characters and dialogue. How the four adults reveal themselves through what they are saying.
Two couples meet up to have a discussion about the fight which happened between their two young sons. Actually, it wasn’t really a fight rather Nancy (Kate Winslet – The Reader, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Alan Cowan’s (Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) son hit Penelope (Jodie Foster – Taxi Driver, Contact) and Michael Longstreet’s (John C. Reilly – Chicago, Ralph Breaks the Internet) son in the mouth with a stick inflicting plenty of damage. The two sets of parents are trying to work things out about how they want this handled.
The coming together starts off rather civilized, but as the afternoon goes along and more things are said, everyone’s true colours start showing.
For the entirety of the 80 minute run time of the film its success or failure rests upon the dialogue and the skill of the actors. Sad to say that neither left me completely satisfied.
This is a rather dark comedic look at the types of people involved. Rich and career oriented folks versus liberal family types. Culture and class clash ensues. We begin to understand how belonging to a certain strata of society usually pins us into a way of thinking. As repressed as Nancy and Alan seem in the beginning is how inhibited the dialogue seems. Gives it an almost fake feel. It is only with a bout of vomit followed by the drinking of scotch that things loosen up getting better.
Even the social commentary here misses the mark. Or trods over territory already developed. In other words, it brought nothing new to the table. Yes, most of us accept that there are differences between a Wall Street type and the average guy. Oh, here comes something about lawyers. Pfft…it just is something we all know about them not really having any moral compass. Sigh….
As for the actors you have plenty of talent here. While no one is good there are low points. For example, when Jodie Foster’s character begins to lose it with her own husband and his behaviour, instead of being believable Foster goes way over the top into hysterical. Another time where I was left scratching my head was when Kate Winslet’s Nancy was drunk. Totally fake. Yes, plenty is asked of the actors. They have to convey outrage, patience, politeness, irritation, directness, devastation, violence, and juvenile behaviour. But sometimes they miss the mark, which I did not expect from these four.
When they were not momentarily off the mark, the four actors really show how good they are. None of their characters, for a variety of reasons, is all that likable. That becomes more and more obvious as time goes on.
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