Carnage Directed by: Roman Polanski Cast: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 13, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: Two couples (Foster and Reilly, Winslet and Waltz) try to come to an understanding after their sons have a physical altercation.
WHO'S IT FOR? Believing in the cast will certainly help you get into Carnage - this is probably Waltz's best role since Inglourious Basterds. If you're looking for a thoughtful comedy based entirely on performances, here is your overdue gift from 2011.
This adaptation of the lauded play by Yasmina Reza ("God of Carnage") starts off strong, but becomes a less charming ball of chaos as it continues to roll on.
With all four key players trying to maintain pleasant face, it's a delight to see a movie earnestly observe the fake niceties we perpetuate on a daily basis, and sometimes automatically. (It should be noted that Carnage cleverly begins after the adults have apparently reached some sort of agreement.) This is when the dialogue best shines - it nails the useless subjects within small chat, and the awkward beats within such exchanges. Even when a few emotional buttons are pushed (Waltz annoys all by being attached to his phone) the adults try to maintain the composure that we've all been told is the better option. We do this, of course, even if it bleeds into passive aggression, which is really the point in which Carnage explodes.
The second act of Carnage is one of awkward comedy, and when everyone starts to unravel. Unexpected events occur, and they bring giggles of shock more than outwardly large laughs of the out loud variety. The centerpiece events of the movie, they clue us into the nature of Carnage, which is snarky but never hilarious with such an attitude. It's charming because it's so quaint and wild, but not much else.
Carnage is nonetheless led by four colorful actors who play their characters through different ranges of intensities. Foster is one of the louder examples, who plays her square hippie character as both a cheesy desperate host and later an exploding, teeth-gnashing banshee who can't make an angry sentence without veins popping in her neck and spit flying out of her mouth.
Yet with such chaos, and in such a lean running time (seventy-five minutes or so of actual film), Carnage still feels redundant with what it's saying about its characters, and where it takes them. It's nice as a change of pace for a movie to take place in real time, and to rely on one set. However, this is a case in which the actions and the time frame seem to restrict the potential of what could be an explosively funny concept.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10