A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.
British couple Fiona and Nigel Dobson are sailing to Istanbul en route to India. They encounter a beautiful French woman, and that night Nigel meets her while dancing alone in the ship's ... See full summary »
Kristin Scott Thomas,
In Brooklyn Bridge Park, eleven year old Zachary Cowan strikes his eleven year old classmate Ethan Longstreet across the face with a stick after an argument. Among the more serious of Ethan's injuries is a permanently missing tooth and the possibility of a second tooth also being lost. Their respective parents learn of the altercation through Ethan's parents questioning him about his injuries. The Longstreet parents invite the Cowan parents to their Brooklyn apartment to deal with the incident in a civilized manner. They are: Penelope Longstreet, whose idea it was to invite the Cowans, she whose priorities in life include human rights and justice; Michael Longstreet, who tries to be as accommodating as possible to retain civility in any situation; Nancy Cowan, a nervous and emotionally stressed woman; and Alan Cowan, who is married more to his work as evidenced by the attachment he has to his cell phone and taking work calls at the most inopportune times. Although the meeting starts ... Written by
A delightful stroll through the brutality of verbal carnage
Roman Polanski's Carnage is without a shadow of a doubt the best black comedy I've seen since Bobcat Goldthwait's World's Greatest Dad. It's thin, but beyond commendable as it depicts two couples discussing the aftermath of what happened between their two children in an extravagant, beautiful Brooklyn (cough, cough Paris) condo.
The victim here is Ethan (both boys only appear at the very beginning and the very end), who was hit in the mouth with a stick, removing his two front teeth by another kid his age. His parents are salesman Michael (Reilly) and writer Penelope Longstreet (Foster) who are holding the meeting. The boy who was wielding the stick was Zachary, whose parents are loquacious Alan (Waltz) and nit-picky and openly insulting Nancy Cowan (Winslet). At first, the talk is presumed to be only a short meeting between two parents, both equally in stressful situations. It quickly transfers from a genial encounter to an almost blatant attack on the couples' separate ways of parenting. The Longstreet couple is more attached to the path of calmness and politically correctness, while the Cowan couple is more blunt, dictative, and downright nihilistic.
The performances are electric, with every actor giving their all to make the material work. At only seventy-nine minutes long and gridlocked into one standard setting, the slick writing manages to squeeze out humor, compassion, passive-aggressive behavior, and provide a social commentary on modern parenting all in one quick rapid-fire excursion.
Despite all the personal attacks that come into play later in the film, neither couple seems like the villain. It shows what pressure, a smothering setting, and a real problem involving their kids can do to people. Parenting is arguable one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences life brings many of us. It can only be further complicated when a confrontation between another child is brought into the picture. The film never becomes pictorial, and depicts the stress in a relaxed way that doesn't become dry or unbearable.
The film is based on a stage play, titled God of Carnage, which is really no surprise. The film plays like one big monologue, shot practically in real-time. If Hollywood got a hold of this formula, I could see a very, very bleak turnout. It would most likely focus more on the humor, making it too arrant, while oppressively hammering in one liners like a one-track, dull comedy. Here, we are more focused on timing, wit, style, and don't forget the development and substance. The care and attention needed to perfect an idea like this is all here, full force. No exceptions, no cop outs - just unadulterated honesty.
I mentioned in my review of The Myth of the American Sleepover that awkward silences and pauses were becoming too common in independent films. Silence, not in the sense of pacing or development, but a droning quietness between dialog that made films feel like a giant hole was cut in the screenplay. The characters in Carnage are quick on their comebacks and timing, making for a very interesting play-by-play. You want to yell your comments and remarks at the screen, but feel you'll disrupt the casual, sophisticated flow of the script.
Carnage is simply a masterful piece by a well-respected director. This is my introduction to Polanski's work, and probably my strongest welcoming to a director's vision next to Scorsese's Casino and Kevin Smith's Clerks. I recently mentioned in my review of Harry and Tonto that the greatest trait a film can possess is the trait of humanism, where the characters seem real, well thought out, and developed unconditionally. Carnage understands that trait inside and out. It could also very well be a comedy with more bad laughs than natural ones, including an ending that reigns truer to anything I've seen in a while. Its commentary on child development and parenting is efficient, and its intellectual side is brittle, realistic, and calm. This is easily one of the funniest, darkest comedies of 2011.
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, and Kate Winslet. Directed by: Roman Polanski.
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