Director: Roman Polanski
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Constantin Film Produktion
Sparks fly in Roman Polanski’s acidic, witty and highly entertaining adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning play The God of Carnage. Carnage is set in a middle class couple’s apartment, played by oddly-matched actors Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, to talk about their young son who had been injured in a violent Brooklyn playground assault by the son of upper class Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. While at first the characters try to patch things up amicably by means of coffee, cobbler and conciliation, emotions take a sharp scotch induced turn and the four soon find themselves being the butt end of ever-escalating insults, frayed relationships and recriminations.
Esthetically speaking, Polanski’s direction is consistently crisp and expert, complimenting the tart and bitchy dialogues and the full-bore performances beautifully. Kate Winslet plays a particularly stunning award-worthy role as a deeply angry character, supported by Waltz’s magnificent reactions to her withering put-downs.
Right from the jump, Foster is so tense and coiled as the self-deluded bleeding-heart who lives just a few steps away from a nervous collapse, it’s almost as though someone forgot to tell her she’s in a comedy, even though it’s a dark one. The film, for all its many pleasures, feels like a bit of a letdown, especially for Polanski’s legion of admirers. The source material is just too hermetically sealed and repetitive to mean anything deeper or more powerful. Also, on Broadway, indelibly acted by Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis, the artificiality of keeping together warring characters in the same room, let alone for hours, was less obvious. Even tightened for the big screen, the revelations and laughs peter out long before the last drop of Scotch.