Saturday, December 17, 2011

Carnage (A-)

If shoving monkeys in a typewriter filled room will eventually give you Shakespeare, what will happen if you repeat the process with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz instead? Acclaimed director Roman Polanski asks this question with his latest film, Carnage. Adapted from the hit broadway play, the film stars the previously referenced cast as two sets of parents whose children were involved in a playground scuffle set out to make amends; The victims (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the perpetrators (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz). However, as the meeting progresses through a series of loaded topics, accidental accusations, off putting marital references, and the deadly combination of warm coca-cola and nausea, what first begins as an awkward apology turns into the degradation of two Manhattanite couples, and the implied implosion of their respective marriages. Think of it as a much more comedic version of Lars von Trier's Melancholia, minus the looming apocalypse and the excessive runtime.

Polanski gives himself little to do other than to effectively point the camera at his actors; the film runs a lean 79 minutes, and never leaves an apartment save a short prologue in Central Park. His sole purpose is to point the camera, and attempt not to make his cinematography seem repetitive, which it doesn't. The film feels like a videotaped finely edited performance of the play, and while in most contexts that description of the film may seem like a backhanded compliment, due to the fine performances of the four-man cast I intend it as a normal compliment as sincere as you'll ever find. Watching the mental decent of these characters is the equivalent to watching a cringe inducing comedy; though you may wince repeatedly over the poor choices these characters make, you simply cannot look away. However, unlike the cringe inducing comedy, it is not the jokes which force you to continue watching, it is the performances themselves. Though it is hard to determine a true standout among the four performances, I suppose it would have to go to Jodie Foster who was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in this film as the mother of the victim. Though her character is essentially written as the "voice of reason" attempting to sway others from leaving the subject at hand, she is able to turn her Marge Simpson-esque character to a compelling force of nature, simultaneously sympathetic and the biggest hypocrite of all.

While I focus extra on Jodie Foster's performance, it should not be forgotten that Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz are all pretty darn fantastic in this film as well. Christoph Waltz, similar to Jodie Foster, is forced to carry the slightly two dimensional character responsible for instigating the madness and does a particularly good job as well. Honestly, this review is turning into an absolute mush fest for this film, so before bluntly smashing you (the reader) with anymore reasons why you should go out and see this movie, I'm just going to downright say it: Please, you should really go see this movie.

You know what, is it even worth it to continue this review at this point? Nah.

Grade: A-

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