Friday, January 13, 2012

A Reel Review: CARNAGE

In adapting “God of Carnage” from the stage to the screen, director Roman Polanski had his work cut for him; making a one-room, one-act play with only four characters interesting, and never tiresome on film. Polanski began his work by casting a trunk-full of Oscar contenders and winners, but how we finish our work is always the most important thing…

After two boys fight on the playground, the parents of the injured boy (Penelope and Michael, played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, respectively) invite the parents of the bully (Nancy and Alan, played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, respectively) over to their apartment to work out the issues. A polite discussion eventually escalates into a verbal war, with all four adults showing their true colors.

Despite a thin plot, CARNAGE excels thanks to the characters and the way they play off of each other. The thrill here is watching two self-righteous couples square off against one another with some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue written in a long time. Polanski keeps the pacing quick and does a remarkable job in directing around the small confines of the apartment. The couples fight over child rearing, politics, money and values; and never miss a moment to break each other down. During the arguing, alliances between the two are formed and broken, all while no resolution is being made to the problem of who was responsible for the playground fight.

CARNAGE is absolutely driven by the characters and the actors that play them. Reilly, Foster and Winslet are just flat-out awesome, and seems like they are having a blast despite how much torment their characters go through.

Some time must be given to Christoph Waltz. Ever since winning his Oscar in Quentin Tarantino’s INFREQUENT BASTERDS, the man has done nothing but meatheaded crap, and the world must have been wondering if he was good in BASTERDS only because of how well his character was written. In CARNAGE, Waltz gets around that and really makes his character his. He wears the skin of his prick-lawyer and even-bigger-prick-of-a-parent character perfectly. It is a performance that outdoes what he won the gold for.

The shtick of Nancy and Alan unable to leave the apartment, along with the constant arguing does get a tad tiresome in some places, but just when you think things are in the gutter, Polanski lets hilarity ensue. There is never a moment in CARNAGE where you don’t feel like you’re watching a stage-play, and that’s okay. On a stage, characters rule.


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