Carnage (2011)

Comedy, Drama
Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Two pairs of parents hold a cordial meeting after their sons are involved in a fight, though as their time together progresses, increasingly childish behavior throws the discussion into chaos.
It isn't as compelling on the screen as it was on the stage, but Carnage makes up for its flaws with Polanski's smooth direction and assured performances from Winslet and Foster.
  • Sony Pictures Classics Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 16 Sep 2011 Released:
  • 20 Mar 2012 DVD Release:
  • $2.5M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Extremely promising start ... almost ruined by an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion ...7/10
When movie characters have many opportunities to leave but stay in a place, we quickly understand -and not without excitement- that the movie will have only one setting.

On that aspect, "Carnage" tries to resemble "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" through a plot consisting in a conflict between two couples. I say 'try' because it's also a rare example of a marvelous potential totally wasted, coming so close to be a comedic gem of originality. I couldn't believe Roman Polanski didn't go farther with the concept he had on his hands. How he let the film end in such an abrupt and, let's face it, anticlimactic way, is a total mystery.

"Carnage" starts with a civilized discussion between two couple of parents, their kids had a fight, the little Cowan broke little Longstreet's two teeth. The Cowans (Nancy and Alan) are played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, and the Longstreets (Michael and Penelope) by John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster. To determine which actor out-shined the other is a futile exercise: they were all great, and the script knows how to give to each one a moment to shine. The discussion is full of social hypocrisy, the Cowans don't deny their son's responsibility but the insistence of Penelope on little Cowan's guilt foreshadows a tension between the couple and the pivotal moment happens in the most unlikely way, through a big outburst of vomit. As soon as Nancy pukes, the movie takes us to one exhilarating ride into human relationships.

The underlined theory behind "Carnage" is that we all have two facets when it comes to our adult behavior, the image we'd like to reflect to society and whatever cements our inner personality. Interestingly, "Carnage" shows the gap between these parts of ourselves we prefer to keep intimate and the image we display as a couple, and that's the key of the film's narrative. In the beginning, it's about two couples, and then it desegregates into four protagonists, each one guided by his or her own issues. The performances are crucial because the point is to allow each viewer to identify with one character while the actions of the others remain justifiable. Indeed, no one is right or wrong, but each one is blinded by a subjectivity that underlines any attempt of a rational judgment. And the funniest thing is that they all try to be objective when it's totally impossible.

Take Penelope for instance, she is an idealist humanitarian that extrapolates the problem of her child to the eternal conflict between the weak and the strong, she embodies the feminist aspect that translates almost everything in terms of conflict, it's all about dominant this and oppressed that. She proudly reminds everyone that she defended the Darfour cause, neglecting that the core of most conflicts in the world is profit and greed, regardless of genders and colors of skins. Ironically, her idealism doesn't prevent her from superficiality when she makes a fuss about a catalog messed up by Nancy's vomit. On the other hand, Michael assumes his superficiality and enjoys life with more detachment. He takes that his boy was in a band with a sort of childish pride that betrays a naive and somewhat good nature, but clearly opposed to his wife's philosophy of life.

The Cowans are more sophisticated and dysfunctional enough to justify a failure in their son's education, but something seems to point the fault on Alan as the eternal workaholic who can't get rid of his phone. The second pivot of the film occurs through the bonding process by gender, when the two men try to not overreact and over-analyze the children's problem, and the two women make it personal. And when the plot was getting more and more exciting, then Nancy took Alan's cell phone and threw it in the water, making the two men struggle to repair it, under the wives' mockeries. Then I started to feel manipulated: as a guy, I know that we, men, have many flaws but not being obsessed by objects; otherwise, we would have purses too. I thought this was a risible attempt to ridicule the guys when the two women were obviously bonding in a most grotesque way.

This highlighted what was for me the problem of the film, the pacing, it was fast, and it seemed to be like in a hurry, without a pause, or some time given to let us catch our breath. Shot in real time, it seemed like the director and the writer were in a hurry to conclude the thing, without giving much answers on the few interesting questions it raised. The mothers had to drink to get drunk fast and behave abnormally very soon. I expected a crescendo evolution that would lead to some audacity, maybe a fight, or a realization. But it felt like the whole concept of the film, adapted from a play written by Yasmina Reza was trapped in a sacred respect of the unity of time, space and plot, with no plot whatsoever.

Amusingly, my wife told me that it was typical of a Yasmina Reza play, and she immediately slept after half an hour, expecting that the movie would lead nowhere. I continued the film and I thought that maybe, it was cleverly preparing for a spectacular climax or some mind-blowing statement about couples. Well, it just ended there and I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated. Since the movie doesn't end having a point in the literal meaning of the world, I guess its point was just to depict how manners and politeness are social masks that can easily get removed when the most sensitive issues are tackled, and while even the couple's facade fails to hide the most intimate convictions.

I'm sure it could have taken more distance and explored more interesting points, but since the writer and the director didn't feel like developing the story and the characters, why should we?
Virginia Woolf Lite5/10
Working on a "sense of community," the two couples in Carnage engage in slowly evolving urban warfare, precipitated by violence in the playground between their two sons. This adaptation from the Broadway play, God of Carnage, is a soberer (by a little) version of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Penelope (Jody Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) host Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christof Waltz) in their Brooklyn apartment to iron out difficulties coming from their sons' fight, which resulted in Penelope and Michael's son's mangled mouth. What begins civilly escalates to a raw verbal melee with all players laying bare their prejudices and weaknesses while the issue of the repentance of Nancy and Alan's child becomes a vehicle for class and culture clash. As in director Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, the action is almost exclusively in the small, one bedroom apartment, resulting in an uncomfortable crowding of bodies and egos. And it doesn't take long for the individual differences to surface as one is conciliatory, another confrontational, another detached, and another bewildered.

Nor does it take long (only an 80 minute production anyway) for alliances to build (and not necessarily in the same couple) with the refrain "Why are we still here?" becoming the battle cry. Yes, it doesn't turn out well, nor would most confrontations except that the civil veneer usually stays intact for most of us.

But when writers Yasmina Reza and Polanski allow the characters to speak their minds, albeit helped by Scotch, the drama gets good and the words become socially lethal. What I like best is the language, not elevated but sassy, smart, and colloquial: "Should we wrap this up?" Yes, it is a film to be wrapped, but there is no real end to the social jousting that goes on in our minds if not our mouths, which are sometimes beaten badly as careless children might do in their play.
The uncomfortable first half leads to a rewarding second half....8/10
By Maurice Jones

Roman Polanski's 'Carnage' starring Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz main seem like an unbalanced superficial casting to some for a low-key movie such as this, but what at first is expectedly unfit and useless is later realized and understood.

From the opening of the film Roman Polanski uses the same intensity of 50's-60's suspense film openings such as 'Compulsion' to distract you from what is happening behind the credits to then lead you to the purpose of the film to the then the plot. The back drop of the credits is filmed and placed in a way that looks especially 70's, which entirely gives a delightfully and brilliantly vintage opening of a treat, as something like this is unfortunately rarely seen in a dramedy as this. A starting such as this lets you know that you're in for the creative dramatically playful telling of Mr. Roman Polanski.

The first few lines of the movie give way to the two head strong characters of the movie who battle it out later on, but before then the movie centers on the societal dealing with a schoolyard attack on the son of a seemingly liberal couple; Penelope and Michael (played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) by the son of a seemingly conservative couple; Nancy and Allen (played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz). Penelope is an opinionated, passionate writer who leads the reasoning of the incident. Michael is a friendly yet choosy salesman who tries to make light of the whole situation. Nancy is a pseudo-conservative who like Michael tries to keep the whole situation without argument and Allen is a sly yet focused attorney who would rather be working then deal with the incident as long as the whole thing is dealt with fairly. The first half of the movie displays the tight-rope courtesy of the two couples dealing with this unfortunate situation in Penelope and Michael's New York apartment, as little by little the faults of each parent comes out but is especially looked over for the sake of good re pore, which makes for a realistic look out on the stubborn idiosyncrasies of parents in general. As what one would consider to be poorly written, boring, typical or an off-putting part of the film is really a clever set up of what's to come as the first half realistically exports the pointlessness and exhaustiveness of how this situation is handled. As things seep towards the second half of the film the characters become less and less censored and open to be their real selves in the confinement of Penelope and Michael's apartment which leads to the rewarding and interesting part of the film. Nancy and Michael are the soft, mending parts of their relationships but turn out to be more disturbed and Penelope and Allen are the leaders and rightfully duke it out. As the conservative couple Nancy and Allen are nothing without their accessories and as the liberal couple Penelope and Michael just want to be heard and taken seriously.

What's great technically about 'Carnage' is Roman Polanski's eye and directing as he is aware of the subtleties and exaggerations of film and why they can go hand in hand. With that Kate Winslet is great at acting guarded and then letting her guard down and Jodie Foster pushes herself to points that seem brilliantly worrying (she should probably get an Oscar nom). John C. Reilly naturally does great playing the friendly, caring Michael who as much as he is that, he's as well careless and Christoph Waltz plays his usual cocky self who has an answer to everything, which is accurate as the fierce attorney he portrays.

Also written by Roman Polanski 'Carnage' has a lot of insight biased or not about men and women and society which makes it importantly realistic and in part shows view of the accurate thoughts of Roman Polanski. If you're into or not into films about four people dealing with each other in one location, check out 'Carnage' and if not for Roman Polanski, see it for the rare useful form of the actors involved. I started out not sure whether I was going to like 'Carnage' or not but towards the end I saw the big picture and in that my only regret is, that when it ended I wanted more time with these four people.
Carnage is an excellent dark comedy which requires multiple viewing9/10
CARNAGE – CATCH IT ( A ) Carnage is one of a kind movie about the meeting held between two set of parents regarding their sons fight in the Brooklyn Park. What starts as a meeting between the parents to determine what led to the fight, turns into the most chaotic day of their lives. Carnage is truly splendid, its four characters in one costume in one apartment. The whole movie is like a theater play where it seems that all is said and done in one shot. Roman Polanski got his hands on some of the most talented actors like Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Walts and John C.Reilly. All the actors have done a tremendous job in showcasing Sensible, Polite, Patient, Direct, Tense, Irritated, Defensive, Outraged, Drunk, Insanity, Chaos, Mayhem, Devastation, Violent, Persuasive, Shocking, Appalling, Juvenile, Massacre and Grotesque emotions. I must say that the ending and the whole hamster story in the movie was hilariously excellent. Overall, Carnage is an excellent dark comedy which requires multiple viewing to understand the characteristics and greatness in the performances of the actors.
Old fashioned movie making7/10
I would like to start off my review with a little back story. I was off from work on a beautiful Southern California day and just watched Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery last night so this was a nice complimentary movie.

The basic premise of the movie is the interactions of two sets of parents who are getting together for the sole purpose of an altercation between their children. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are the parents of the injured child (Ethan). Kate Winslet and Christopher Waltz are the parents of the boy that hit Ethan (Zachery). The movie starts and ends in the confines of the Longstreet's apartment (Reilly & Foster). What ensues is the breakdown of civility between the two parties.

I really enjoyed the movie, especially as it was the right movie for my mood, but also because the casting was great, dialogue was sharp and as usual the directing was spot on. I went in expecting Reilly to be miscast, but he not only held his own but had some real moments. Foster is easy to hate and the one I think an award nomination is due. Winslet had a great metamorphosis as too chic investment banker. Waltz was maybe not fleshed out as much, but easily the most enjoyable. All things considered it was a Thoroughly enjoyable movie.

There is very little not to like but taken in the essence of an old fashioned ensemble And that it's wrapped up nicely with a bow, not many loose ends, it's a great 80 minute Escape from the HD life we live.