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Carnage: Cynical Polanski Comedy

  • Christoph WaltzJodie Foster...
  • Comedy
  • Out now
  • Roman Polanski
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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Carnage: Cynical Polanski Comedy

sets of parents, the Longstreets and the Cowans, meet up after Zachary, the
Cowan’s son, hits Ethan, the Longstreet’s son, with a stick during a playground
squabble – knocking out two of his teeth. The parents’ meeting, intended to be a
civilized way to mediate the situation, turns into a full blown disaster as the
four participants’ ideologies and mannerisms clash and their bourgeois masks

started off as a play called God of Carnage
and the film definitely holds onto its theatre roots. For one, the entire film
takes place in the Longstreet’s flat, plus it’s completely reliant
on dialogue. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael
Longstreet, the bleeding heart, do-the-right-thing couple. While Kate Winslet
and Christoph Waltz play Nancy and Alan Cowan; the high powered, career couple.
At least that’s how everything starts out. As the film progresses, different
aspects of their personalities come out of hiding, pretences slip and their
fangs appear – all to pretty comic results.

film basically consists of these four people irritating and aggravating each
other until they forget all about decorum and lash out. Penelope is overwhelmed
with the white-man’s-burden and is therefore committed to being the most PC
person in the room. Michael does his best to act just like her but his mask soon
slips and reveals a knuckle-headed guy who just doesn’t care.

Alan, on the
other hand, is more attached to his mobile phone than he is to any living
creature and resents having been dragged to this meeting by Nancy, who
coincidentally can’t stand the way he answers his phone at all hours and
delegates all the house work to her. They’re a messed up group of individuals
trying to outdo each other but are too stressed to pull off the act
successfully. If watching people crack is your idea of fun, this should be

The film
is shot in a way that
pervades you with an unbearable sense of tension and
claustrophobia . The Cowans frequently get up to leave but are
continuously lured back to the Longstreets’ couch. You share their tension;
their dislike at being in this place with these people.

actors do really well in bringing out the comedy in the situation. Waltz in
particular is fantastic. You half expect him to go for the jugular at any
minute and when he smiles, it’s like a predator luring in its prey. Foster’s
performance borders on hysterical as is appropriate for her character while Reilly
becomes more macho by the minute. Meanwhile, Winslet shows off her impeccable American
accent and makes a rather entertaining drunk.

Carnage is pretty hilarious but on the whole, its format is
probably better suited to the theatre than to cinema.

Like This? Try

The Exterminating Angel, The Sunset Limited, My Dinner With Andre

360 Tip

The play, God of Carnage, had a successful run on stages all over the world with stars such as Ralph Fiennes, Lucy Liu, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden starring at one point or another.

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