2/6/12

CARNAGE - REVIEW


Adapting a play should be pretty straight-forward: you've got pretty much the whole script right there! But sometimes, movies and plays just don't translate well to each other. Surely a talented director like Roman Polanski would know how to side-step such an issue though. Right?

Well... yes and no.

From very early on, it's pretty clear that after a Haneke-style opening shot we'll pretty much be stuck in this one apartment with all the main characters for the entirety of the film. I can see why Polanski thought that would work: the claustrophobic setting coupled with the stress and awkwardness bouncing off the walls creating an unnerving sense of "get me the hell outta here!". Fine. It's a stagy concept but I can see it working.

Unfortunately, not really the case here.

Had the story progressed in a different, more chaotic and entertaining way then this could have worked brilliantly (see The Dinner Game). But the banality of the core premise's message is understood and assimilated within the first fifteen minutes so the crescendo of tension really fails to pack the punch it's looking for in the end. Don't get me wrong: it's a good play and the performances throughout are excellent but as a movie it feels a tad redundant. We get it, the adults are acting more childish than the kids and complicating something really quite simple with their own insecurities. Then what happens?

...

Exactly.

Polanski's film really aims to be a French-style comedy and although it succeeds in being funny and creating some great characters it just lacks the farcical lengths to which films like Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure or even L'Invité go to. If you're gonna sit people down and lock 'em up in a room full of assholes, the payoff has to be a good one. The payoff here? A Blackberry rings.

As negative as this all sounds, I enjoyed most of Carnage. The performances were all really spot-on and although when alcohol is introduced things get a bit less focused, overall it's a winning acting quartet. Christoph Waltz is particularly great as the slimy, insensitive lawyer and Foster completely convincing as John C. Reilly's high-strung wife. The film's highlight being Kate Winslet projectile vomiting, it's almost a shame they didn't end with that shit! They should all have done that!

Hardly Polanski's best and I can't promise I'll remember Carnage for very long but for what it is, it's a smart, funny movie with a terrific cast of characters. Shame they just... sit there.

SPOILER ALERT: The trailer IS the whole movie.

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