Starring: Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly
Reviewer: Kent Tentschert
When Alan Cowen’s (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy Cowen’s (Kate Winslet) son injures Michael Longstreet’s (John C. Reilly) and Penelope Longstreet’s (Jodie Foster) son, they gather at the Longsteets’ apartment to settle the dispute.
Initially cordial, the couples soon find themselves politely disagreeing as they get to know one another. Yet, the more they become friendly, the more they argue, with their boys’ incident punctuating the debate. Escalating to the point of yelling, these modern adults find that compromise and middle ground cannot enter their lexicon.
As the sun rises over the playground, the two boys talk and are friends again.
Based upon the critically acclaimed stage play “God of Carnage,” this film unfolds and moves like a play.
Alan is a lawyer neck-deep in a pharmaceutical case. His wife Nancy becomes upset at Michael admitting to setting loose his daughter’s pet in their city street, while Penelope’s politically correct attitudes rub the men the wrong way.
The pacing of this film is wonderful, taking a pedestrian setting (an apartment) and keeping the characters moving, emotional – and interesting.
As these two boys force their parents together, it’s the adults’ interaction that drives the themes of this film. Alan continuously interrupts the conversation with phone calls, while the others cordiality is continuously derailed by their strong opinions.
The stage play feel of this movie revs up the potentially slow-moving tale, but it also opens it up to unwanted questions. A stage play often artificially holds the characters in the stage setting simply because of the set limitations of live theater. Audiences embrace this and respond to the creativity used by directors. In film, these limitations are unnecessary and, it is here, magnifying the fact that the characters are kept in the apartment even after their arguments escalate.
The four players in this escalating story are superb. Each stakes out their respective opinion and uses it to pry open Pandora’s box, freeing anger, frustration and false niceties.
As the liquor flows, emotions peak and their maturity wanes, we discover that each of these parents represents a negative trait that has developed in our society – causing the original perp and victim to be shown as the mature ones in this altercation.
“Carnage” is a delight – observing the childs play of adult everyday living. Although its theatrical roots loosen its footing, the acting and strong writing shore up this funny thoughtful film.