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There is always a mild sense of controversy in admitting that you're a fan of Roman Polanski, especially considering his conviction for the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, which caused him to flee the United States were he had at the time begun the founding of a promising career on the back of Horror classic "Rosemary's Baby" as well as the equally classic "Chinatown". Due to this he frequently remains a director both admired for his directorial skills, but also approached with caution, especially when expressing any kind of admiration for his work and because of his current fugitive status, which has meant that he has not returned to the United States since 1978, despite an attempt by U.S. Authorities to extradite him back to the states in 2010, which eventually saw him being released by the Swiss after they rejected the U.S. request. Still as a director I will admit I do list several of his films including "The Pianist" amongst my favourites and as such try to keep the man's talent and person life separate, which is the stance that I carry across into this review as well.
Set in the aftermath of a dispute between two young boys Ethan and Zachary, which ended with one hitting the other in the face with a stick. Believing the issue can be resolved without the lawyers getting involved, the boys parents decide to hold a meeting to try and resolve the issue themselves. In this spirit of co-operation Zachary's parents Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz & Kate Winslet) visit the home of Ethan's parents Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly & Jodie Foster), but soon things start to go astray as personality differences come to a head and the meeting slowly degenerates.
Based on play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza for which she won both the Olivier and Tony award for and despite the closest I have come to seeing being via a Wikipedia breakdown, it's still clear that the framework has essentially been retained here, despite the names of the two mothers baffling being changed. Still Polanski has seemingly set out to shoot the film from essentially the same view point as if the audience was watch it as a play, which still allowing himself the freedom of close ups and multiple angles, rather than restraining himself by shooting from a fixed stand point and it feels like great care has been taken with each of the shots, to find those exact angles in which to shoot, while the backgrounds are so packed with interesting items and intricate details it frequently makes you want to crawl inside the film so that you might get to look around the Longstreet's apartment better, while the claustrophobic setting perfectly cranks up the pressure as the tensions between them grow.
Despite being set in Brooklyn, New York, it's actually Paris were the film was shot thanks to Polanski's aforementioned status, not that it really matters as the film unfolds in a grand total of four sets, as the action moves between the Longstreet's Living Room, Kitchen, Hallway and Bathroom with only the ending and opening shot as exterior shots, which Polanski shows the original incident happening, yet teasingly doesn't allow us to hear what causes the fight in the first place, something which is frustratingly never really explored with the boys behaviour discussed really in snippets of conversation, while the main focus is put on finding a resolution, a topic which soon also gets lost in the upheaval of personal opinions and loosening of tongues thanks to the lashing of scotch later consumed, leading to levels of unexpected carnage from when we first meet the couple exchanging polite conversation over espresso and homemade cobbler.
The two couples differences are set to consume them and eventually each other essentially from the start, with the Cowan's being decidedly upper class, with Nancy being an investment banker, while her husband is an investment banker, whose continuous breaks from the discussion to answer his mobile and discuss his current case were he is defending a questionable Pharmaceutical company facing a class action. Meanwhile the Longstreet's are less grand in their pursuits with Michael working as a salesman of kitchen ware and sanitary equipment, while his wife Penelope seems almost mismatched to him in comparison, especially with her stance as the concerned liberal and writer of books about Africa's problems, while extending her desire for chance to her husband, who she is constantly trying to improve. Still she is very much the kind of woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and displays her cultural side on the coffee table, in what would seem to be many of her attempts to social climb and escape the current preconceptions of her current position.
Polanski here has assembled here a truly fantastic cast with Three Oscar winners in his cast and his sole non winner (yet still nominated) Reilly certainly looking like a much stronger contender for one after this one, as he adds yet another great performance to his resume, especially as it's a performance which emphasis's his natural warmth and humour, rather than his more forced attempts at comedy he has largely now become associated with thanks to the likes of "Step Brothers" and "Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story" which thankfully this is a hundred miles away from. Waltz meanwhile is on his usual top form, with the script perfectly suiting his ability of elevating even the simplest of monologues into a treat for the ears, as he plays and teases out each of the words with the utmost ease. Foster once again gives us her usual sniper esq style of projection, largely being softly spoken throughout and proving truly devastation the further she is pushed as the afternoon rolls on and each attempt to end the meeting fails as the couple return to the living room once more. Winslet is the more emotional of the foursome and produces many of the surprise moments throughout including a vomit sequence which seemingly comes from nowhere and producing a similar level of shock to that of the chest burster in "Alien".
"Carnage" is the sort of film that will appeal largely to fans of "Lost In Translation" who don't need frequent scene changes, gratuitous nudity and expensive looking explosions to make their moving going experience a fun one, more so with the action here being a largely dialogue driven look at what happens when the manners start to fade and people let their true side show and while hardly the easiest of sells, it's one which is certainly worth giving a look and made all the more enjoyable by it's capable cast who share some real chemisty, helped further by a fantastic script co-written by original playwright Reza and ensuring that it perfectly transfers from the stage to the screen
The all star cast, Oscar winning director and Olivier award winning play that come together to create 'Carnage' appear to have the potential to be a real showstopper. The reality is somewhat disappointing.
The plot is simple: the parents of two eleven year old boys who have recently got into a fight come together to discuss the issue. The idea behind the film (and original play) is the concept of the crescendo. What begins as a good mannered and well intentioned meeting escalates gradually as tempers flare, insults are thrown and alcohol is thrown into the mix. This idea starts well with the somewhat forced pleasantries between the two couples creating some anticipation as to what is to come. However, as tensions rise they struggle to maintain the energy necessary to allow for an exciting and amusing conclusion.
This is not to say that the acting is poor. The four actors play their roles expertly all showing their experience. Jodie Foster's performance is particularly impressive as she progresses from the polite and refined hostess to take on an angrier and somewhat drunken role.
The film is based on the play 'God of Carnage' by Yasmina Reza which won an Olivier award for best comedy in 2009. The play is set all in one room which makes the concept one that is suited to a stage production but which limits both the director and actors when moved to the big screen.
In the end, the finale of the film is simply not dramatic enough to live up to the suspense created in the earlier scenes leaving the viewer feeling somewhat cheated of the promised drama.
Star - Kate Winslet & Jodie Foster
Certificate - 18R
Run Time - 80 minutes
Country - USA
Blockbuster - £2.00 per night
Blockbuster - 0.99p ex rental bargain bin
Awards - Nominated 2 Golden Globes
Amazon -£7.16 DVD (£10.60 Blue Ray)
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Roman Polanski is one of those directors who have a prestigious sounding name equal to their film cannon. But he hasn't done much of note since his heyday in the 1970s; his penchant for young girls rightfully curtailed his chances of making Oscar winning movies today and likely to be arrested on site if he sets foot in America. Certain celebrities that noisily support charities and organizations for the protection of children don't seem to have a problem with working with a man convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old.
He has an impressive five Oscar nominations and won for The Pianist in 1992, surprisingly not for Chinatown, Tess and Rosemary's Baby. Polanski, of course, could not attend The Academy Awards to pick up his Oscar, presented by his good friend Harrison Ford at Cannes. The truth is he only shot two of his thirty movies in America anyway and so no big deal on his return to Hollywood.
Carnage is the sort of 'acting' movie the serious film press like but, ultimately, just Broadway on the big screen, based on the Olivier Award-winning play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, the four big name actors here not leaving the enclosed space of a house for the 80 minute duration and thrilled to be working with Polanski, no doubt. As we have found out in recent months, back in the 1970s and 80s, celebrities seem to have been able to pick from the sweet tray at will, however forbidden.
= = = Cast = = =
Jodie Foster ... Penelope Longstreet
Kate Winslet ... Nancy Cowan
Christoph Waltz ... Alan Cowan
John C. Reilly ... Michael Longstreet
Elvis Polanski ... Zachary Cowan
Eliot Berger ... Ethan Longstreet
= = = The Plot = = =
Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz) Cowan are on their way to Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Micheal (John C. Reilly) Longstreet's house, there to solve a dispute to avoid legal action when their sons are involved in a fight, young 13-year-old Zachery (Elvis Polanski) cracking 14-year-old Ethan Longstreet (Eliot Berger) over the head with a stick in their swanky suburban New York borough.
Although cordial at first it soon becomes sarcastic between the couples as the accusations of poor parenting fly, Alan admitting his kids a maniac, an elbow planted in the ribs by the wife for his concession. Michael calms things down with his diplomatic manner but soon patronized by Alan, who has a far more important job and status in life so feels superior to it all, some sort of professional negotiator, ironically. Michael sells bathroom equipment and should know his place. But after the boys share a cigar and sympathy the booze comes out and the insults fly, the two women at each others throat, Nancy's projectile vomit on Penelope's prized book collection not helping as the parents begin to behave like the kids they were supposed to be here to stand up for in a mature way.
= = = Results = = =
I have to say I struggled with this. Stage plays on screen never really work for me and this wasn't in the 99p Market Place bargain bin at Blockbusters I wouldn't have watched it until it was on TV. As I say the whole thing is set in the house for the whole 80 minutes and hangs on the conflict between the two couples and whether you find it caustically funny or not. There are funny bits, especially when the girls get drunk but not enough moment s to sustain this, a recommended rent.
The screenplay develops as layer after layer of civilized behavior are peeled back down to the raw bone. The awkward interaction of middle-class professionals and parents about their boys switches gear to become a hostile interaction of couples about their inner demons and relationship struggles. That part is fair enough but its still Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster on screen when it comes down to it enjoying having fun with the award winning play and Polanski's direction. I did enjoy rapidly rising star Christopher Waltz comic performance and John C Reiley as good a sever as the haggard henpecked father, proof enough you don't have to be handsome to be a comic movie star.
Not surprisingly it bombed in the multiplexes with its $25million doing just $27million back and most of that wages for the stars and director. If you like your stage plays on film then this is definitely for you as it feels very theatrical and the stars enjoy the intelligent work. The script is pretty funny and the performances competent and nice to see Jodie Foster back on screen. But as a movie to sit down to after a hard days work then probably not, very niche in its own genre. It sure as hell beats the generic chick flick though so maybe worth renting this over that.
= = = = RATINGS = = = =
Imdb.com - 7.1/10.0 (60,235votes)
Metacrtic.com - 61% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 72% critic's approval
= = = = Critics = = = =
The Guardian -'Some serious injury here, but not carnage'.
ABC Australia -' Carnage is ... more of a curiosity than a major experience - but it's fun and funny, and sometimes that's enough
Capital Times -'Although the play isn't quite as successful or penetrating on screen, it works as an entertainingly vicious doubles tennis match between two pairs of terrific actors'.
Film4 -'Tensions mount, tempers fray and platitudes are thrown out of the window but Polanski's comedy of spite is hilarious, cathartic and perfectly-portioned'.
Sight and Sound -'The characters' all-round unpleasantness, and the film's merciless mirth-making with their failings, keeps things buoyantly, bleakly funny'.
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This is a Roman Polanski film, which is actually based on a play called 'God Of Carnage'. I can see how it could be a good play, but as a film it didn't really work for me.
It stars Kate Winslet & Christoph Waltz as the parents of an 11 year old boy who has hit a school mate in the face with a stick, following a fall out at the park. Jodie Foster & Jon C. Reilly play the parents of the 'victim'. The premise of the film is that the parents of the bully have gone to visit the parents of the victim in their apartment to talk about the incident and it starts out all quite nicey-nice with the parents of the victim being quite understanding, but escalates into a huge disagreement where they keep swicthing sides: the two couples are siding against each other the women argue with each other then they gang up against the men etc... It explores their own opinions and prejudices as well as the cracks in the relationships of the two couples.
The whole film is set in the apartment and nothing actually 'happens' really apart from the discussions going on and Winslet's character unfortunately voiting all over some important books! It is a short film, Just 1 hr 20 mins long, yet it still didn't manage to keep my attention, I just found it a little dull and not at all the 'hilarious' comedy it was advertised as.