Initially initially intrigued by the preview for Carnage, I didn’t bother getting my hands on the DVD. Can’t pinpoint why but it looked too smug, despite the quartet of heavy-hitters.
One recent day when I had a visitor, I gave her the choice of movies on hand (thanks Seattle Public Library): The Hedgehog, The Pillow Book and Carnage. After some debate (and a failed effort at watching Pillow Book), we rolled with Carnage.
The movie itself is much like a debate we can break down like this:
On one side of the room, Team A: Penelope (Jodie Foster), point guard and coach of the Longstreet family, married to Michael (John C. Reilly), power forward who (usually) takes direction well. Penelope’s a creative academic; he's a pragmatic, an everyday guy with an edge for scotch and humor. (The Foster-Reilly combo would never have occurred to me but they possessed a chemistry that grew on me.)
Enter Team B: Power-couple Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz) Cowan. Even less of an imaginable pairing, but again, it worked. Alan’s cell phone rings incessantly and he always answers. Nancy is increasingly vexed by Alan’s ability to check out.
Their meet-and-greet is precipitated by a violent fight between their sons, the details of which hold the common thread—what happened, how bad was it and what are they going to do about it.
The discussion starts calmly in the Longstreet living room. We can resolve this reasonably, they tell themselves. As the afternoon progresses, we are spectators to an incredible doubles match. They couples quarrel, blame, switch sides, recriminate. There is drinking, crying, vomiting. Followed by more drinking and accusations.
Based on a French play God of Carnage (Le Dieu du carnage) by Yasmina Reza, the entire movie takes place in the Longstreet’s home. The dialogue is rich and keeps you at attention and disbelief as the escalations lead to fiasco. As alliances change, we ride the growing wave of suspense. Each character has his/her strengths to drive the eruptions and wit to the finale.
I loved it. The best part is that each time you think the Cowans are leaving, they don’t.
Director: Roman Polanski
Run time: 80 minutes