Thursday, January 5, 2012

Carnage


In Roman Polanski’s Carnage, two unhappily married couples meet to discuss a recent scuffle that their sons were in, a minor altercation that left one child with broken teeth and another with shattered pride. Soon enough, their conversation deviates from the problem at hand, opening itself up to a litany of insults regarding class, stature, appearance, you name it.

The film, which should be titled something along the lines of A Short Film About Bitching, is just that: 79 minutes of incessant bitching and moaning. The characters in the film whine about themselves, one another, their children, whatever. And here is where Polanski and co-screenwriter Yasmina Reza (adapting her own play) achieve minor greatness: they drafted a film about and featuring annoying characters, but the movie itself manages to be anything but.

Don’t get me wrong, even though it’s short, the argument(s) that Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly) have with Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz), do not stay fully enthralling throughout. But as an exercise in fluid, evolving screenwriting, it’s impossible to not call Carnage a success.

It’s Nancy and Alan’s son, Zachary, that hauled off and hit Penelope and Michael’s son, Ethan, in the face with a stick. At first, it’s refreshing to watch the two couples wallow in pretense. Nancy and Alan are hopelessly apologetic for their son’s behavior (but not really), while Penelope and Michael continually remind them that it’s all okay (which it isn’t). When the shifts come, they occur subtly and with zero overplaying.
Carnage takes place in New York but was shot in Paris for a reported $25 million, the majority of which I assume was used to fulfill the stars’ salary demands. There’s not much more to the movie than a solid script and steady acting (although Alexandre Desplat’s music helps move things along), it carries itself well, right up until its final scene.

While I’ve already dubbed 2011 The Year of the Great Performance in the Mediocre Film, feel free to also classify it as The Year of the Non Ending. Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rampart, Carnage (and many more), are all good movies that have no clue how to resolve their story. The validation of these films’ denouements are obviously up for debate, but the final scene of Carnage is so lazy, it had me wondering if the experience was even worth it. B-

10 comments:

  1. Great review,as always,and I can understand your problem with it! Since you asked, here's my take on it back from October, when I saw it at the London Film Festival! http://azizaspicks.blogspot.com/2011/10/carnage-2011.html

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  2. @Aziza I definitely agree with your review, but yeah that ending... lame.

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  3. I don't actually perfectly remember the ending, but I think it was just a random shot in the apartment, like a closing of a scene, I do know I was surprised by it. It was suddent, but I have seen worst endings! Also, just out of curiosity, what was the average age of the viewers, cause in my theatre most of them were over 40?

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  4. @Aziza Yeah it was the same, mostly 40-50 year olds. We can talk about the ending privately, don't want to be a spoiler!

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  5. Mine's going up on Monday. I gave it a 7.

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  6. @Colin Nice, seems about what I'd give it.

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  7. I too thought the ending was very weak and disappointing. The whole movie was great, especially Winslet and Foster and Waltz was amazingly funny. Desplat music was very good - that opening scene would miss so much without it.

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  8. @Sati. Waltz definitely stole the show for me. I wonder if the movie would've been any better had Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini, the original stars of the stage play, played the roles taken over by Foster and Reilly...

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  9. I don't get the upset about the ending. How else do these things end up in real life? (SPOILER) The hamster lives and the kids make up. It's perfect. And the whole meeting of the two sets of parents is "Much ado about nothing" ;-)

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  10. @Fr. Dennis at the Movies I wasn't upset at all about the content of the ending, I was more upset that the apartment conflict just ended, without really ending. That movie just... faded to black. Didn't work for me at all.

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