Brilliant actors turning in decent performances is not enough to save Carnage, an offering from Roman Polanski. If your idea of fun is spending 2 hours of your life that you will never get back is sitting watching people scream, yell and argue at and with each other, then you have hit the jackpot with this movie.
Polanski’s checkered past is enough to have some reviewers refusing to watch his movies, with some taking the moral high ground. The line is blurring here between life and art, and his personal life shouldn’t really have anything to do with the movies he turns out. By viewing Carnage as a stand alone movie without considering who the director is, it is clear that there is very little to it overall, and what there is, is very monotonous.
Carnage is based on a French play called ‘God of Carnage’ which instantly limits it location wise. This does, however, give the director scope for stylish flourishes, and while the like of Michael Bay would have made the most of this opportunity, Polanski ignores it completely and everything is just…there.
The opening shot of the movie is of kids playing in a New York park, the credits then roll and then one of the kids hits another in the face with a stick. We then move to the house where the victim lives with their parents, Jodie Foster and John C Reilly. They invite the parents of the victim, Kate Winslet and Christopher Waltz, over to talk things through and find out what the problem is with the kids.
Things quickly heat up when blame starts be apportioned, and it turns out that unbeknown to his parents, the attacker is in a gang. These previously civil adults abandon all their pretensions and plummet into a drink fuelled pit of name calling and abuse. Jodie’s Foster’s character is by far the most irritating; a haughty writer who is working on a book about Darfur, her whining and crying even annoys her husband (Reilly).
Reilly is in fact the highlight of the movie and the one who makes it tolerable. Once he has alcohol inside his, his inhibitions disappear and he tells it how it is, providing by far the funniest lines in the entire movie. Waltz plays a lawyer that spends half the movie on his cellphone to a pharmaceutical client and Winslet is a holier than thou type who briefly becomes more interesting when she vomits on the coffee table.
Despite all its good intentions, all Carnage actually achieves is another statement on society that is seen through the eyes of a small group of individuals in one small place. There have been so many of these over the years that we are all rapidly losing patience with them as they bring nothing new to the table. It tries to show that educated people once drunk are just like the rest of us, hardly a revelation and something that makes for a pretty dire movie.