I wasn’t quite sure who to like in Carnage, Roman Polanski’s annoying little film about two sets of wealthy Brooklyn parents bickering over their children’s schoolyard fight. Was it the women, demeaned to one-dimensional wrecks? Was it the men, miscast or otherwise reduced to unconvincing buddy-film cliché? Though Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet offer a few moments each where likeability seems possible (she does some of the best drunk acting in recent memory), there’s no escaping these characters’ grasps in this claustrophobic gimmick of a movie.
By the time Winslet slurs, “Why are we still in this house?” the audience is right there with her.
The film, little in every sense at 80 minutes and taking place almost entirely in one room, has few redeeming qualities. Based on Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play, God of Carnage, you can see how this might have worked on a small stage. But as a movie teeming with Oscar royalty (winner Jodie Foster and nominee John C. Reilly play couple #2), it’s a major disappointment.
Waltz and Winslet are the most believable as the tightly-wound mother and the work-obsessed father to the accused child, but believability is not Carnage‘s strong suit. The characters jump back and forth so flexibly from supportive to unsupportive, to irrational to rational, that the act runs dry quickly in the small space.
The moral of this story is pretty obvious. It’s that age-old question of what happens when you put Blank in a room with Blank. You know, will humanity prevail and all be reconciled, or will they deteriorate into savagery? Here’s a clue: look at the poster.
In the end, as the women cry as women do, and as the men bond in their moral reasoning as men do, the carnage most wrought is on the audience that deserved more.
See it at Hyland Cinema until February 2nd — 240 Wharncliffe Road South