Posted September 29, 2011 by Alex Moss Editor in C
 
 

Carnage


In the aftermath of a playground fight, the parents of the two boys involved, meet to resolve the incident.

In the aftermath
of a playground fight, the parents of the two boys involved, meet to resolve
the incident.
High-flying financier Nancy (Kate Winslet) and lawyer Alan (Chrisoph
Waltz
) travel to self-made man Michael (John C Reily) and socially conscious writer Penelope’s (Jodie Foster) apartment to discuss the
boys actions.

The women are determined to be
reasonable but Penelope’s nursing a simmering anger and resentment while Nancy
is defensive, protective of her son.
Michael is determined to be a genial host despite the situation and Alan
would rather not be there, constantly taking loud phone calls on his mobile
phone.

On the face of it the four have little in common with
each other but when Alan breaks out the Scotch polite reasonableness soon gives
way to bitter argument and resentment, laying bare the tensions within both
marriages as the couples vent their anger, exposing their hypocrisies and
prejudices.

The latest film from Roman Polanski, international fugitive and convicted sex offender
it’s socially acceptable for us cultural snobs to admire, Carnage never quite escapes its stage origins. Relocating the action from the
privileged Parisian apartment of Yasmina
Reza
’s play God of Carnage to
Manhattan’s upper west side, the film is a static, pedestrian affair, with
Polanski making absolutely no effort to open it out. Well, it’s not like he can pop to Central Park for some
location shooting. It lacks the pressure
cooker tension and claustrophobia it needs for the bourgeois comedy of manners
to really sing. Alliances are made
and broken, the sexes siding with each other at times against their partners,
truth’s and prejudices alike are aired and Reza’s incisive dialogue still cuts
to the bone but it all feels a little inconsequential. Nothing much happens, nothing much is
at stake, and once Reza’s point that manners, compassion and reasonableness are
only skin deep, that the veil of civilisation we hide behind can be torn
asunder at any time, once that point has been made, Polanski continues to labour
it.

“Look!” he seems to be saying, “Look at these petty
people and their petit bourgeois values!
Look at them. Don’t they
make you sick? The world would be
a much nicer place if we could all just get along. Forgive and forget.
Maybe then I could, like, come back to America and pick up my
Oscar. If only you weren’t all so
petty and small-minded…” While I
appreciate the irony of being lectured on acceptable standards of behaviour by
a man whose idea of good manners extends to drugging and screwing a
semi-conscious 13-year-old, Carnage
feels preachy, never really grabs you, Reza’s script rendered dull and lifeless
by perfectly good film actors giving panto performances. Foster gives us an arch version of her
thin-lipped bitch while Winslet has that panicky, doe-eyed expression on her
face that tells us she’s really, really acting. You know, the one? That look she had all the way through
home-scrape chucklefest Revolutionary
Road
. Or when she wasn’t
boffing in The Reader and Little Children. John C. Reilly meanwhile just gives us an unfunny
version of the douchebag persona he brings to his work with Will Ferrell and Christoph Waltz lasciviously delivers every line like he’s a cross
between the Big Bad Wolf and Mephistopheles with a Teutonic mid-Atlantic
accent. These aren’t characters,
they’re caricatures and neither Polanski or his actors convince us they are
anything else.

Watching Carnage
is a lot like being stuck at a middle class dinner party and forced to sit
between some lentil-munching hippie earth mother who still co-sleeps with her
8-year-old and some Burberry-clad banker with a ski-bum tan who tucks his shirt
into his jeans, gets really crappy mileage in his MG and is intent on telling
you that whoever said money can’t buy you love had obviously never been to
Estonia. You know that at some
point they’re going to argue about the Recession/Third World/War on Terror
(delete as applicable) and you’re going to be stuck in the middle, you know the
organic wine is going to taste like vinegary piss, both it and the evening
leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth and you know that you’d much rather be
home watching Ice Road Truckers.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com