I’ve always found Roman Polanski’s cinema, with the exception of Chinatown, to be overly portentous and pretentious. And going into Carnage, the fog of pretension was certainly thick, but the trailer did something truly remarkable, it suggested that Polanski had made a comedy. Polanski. Po-lan-ski. I know, remarkable. But what will really doodle your noodle, is that Carnage, is actually funny, and what’s more, it’s, you know, enjoyable.
For those unaware, Carnage is based upon the play God of Carnage by French playwright Yasmina Reza, who co-writes the screenplay with Polanski. Now, the mark of the play certainly hangs over the film throughout, but that isn’t a bad thing.
Carnage stars Jodie Foster and John C Reily as Penelope Longstreet and Michael Longstreet and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as Nancy Cowan and Alan Cowan. The Cowan’s are visiting the Longstreet’s in their Brooklyn apartment, after their son struck the other with a stick. The two couples are meeting to discuss why this happened and to prevent any further incidents, but after the initial cordiality, the meeting between the two sets of parents predictably descends into childish bickering and name-calling.
The one question you’ll ask when watching this film is, ‘why haven’t the Cowan’s left already?’ No couple would endure that situation, it’s ridiculous and it is, but through a series of contrived circumstances, which involve multiple telephone calls, hysterics and even Kate Winslet chundering her guts up, the Cowan’s end up staying far long than intended. Contrived? Absolutely, but the script is witty -of course it’s pretentious but that was expected -and the actors’ delivery of their lines is superb, all of them clearly relishing the wonderful script and unique setting ie the ‘action’ all takes place in the Longstreet’s lounge (for the film’s majority). In particular, Foster and Waltz are dazzling in their roles but everybody involved shines.
The film positively flew by and wisely it boasts a minimal running time, it’s a miniscule hour and twenty minutes long. If it were any longer the film would come unstuck, but fortunately thanks to an excellent script, a tremendous cast and deft direction, Polanski has turned out his best film, well, since Jake Gittes turned up in Chinatown. And what’s more, it’s funny. I know, a Polanski film, which is both funny and good… Wow!
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