When two teenage boys get into a fight at school, it’s up to the parents to square things. So parents Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) call rival boys parents Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) round for a meeting of minds. While all initially goes smoothly, it soon becomes apparent to both sets of parents that there are reasons behind their children’s anti-social behaviour. As communication begins to break down, civility goes out the window and so begins a battle of minds and words that is total carnage.
Roman Polanski takes the directing helm in a very different movie to his recent offerings, in fact its a little like a trip back down memory lane, to the 70’s where Polanski mixed humour with something a little bit more edgy. While Carnage is indeed a funny movie, this is not however the laugh out loud variety, not at the start at least. This is a real slow burning gem, that you need to bear with for quite a long time before you get the payoff, but when it comes it comes on strong. One minute all is fine, the next you have Kate Winslet vomiting in a bucket, Jodie Foster having a mental breakdown, and Christoph Waltz essentially in tears because his life has been thrown into a vase of water and daffodils.
Carnage is a very dark piece of writing, based on a popular stage play; despite the move from the stage to the big screen you still have a very claustrophobic image of things. It’s very much a four handed movie briefly interrupted by the persistent phone calls by Michael’s mother, and work colleagues ringing Alan who’s working life is on a downward spiral thanks to a pending law suit.
The performances are very good from all involved, the usually reliable Foster getting to really show her acting talent, but sadly to some degree does get the weakest character (to bond with). That being said, you truly understand that each and every one of the people you meet in the movie is equally as despicable as the other, some just take a little longer to reveal their true colours.
There is a lot of negative attention focused around Carnage, simply because the movies trailers really were aimed at a more mainstream audience, the sort of audience that might well laugh hysterically throughout an Adam Sandler movie. But this is not for that audience, before the humour starts you have a realistic thirty minutes of heavy dialogue, and against one single background (a living room). If you enjoy the movies of Polanski, or like the your comedy with a little it more substance than just the slapstick, then Carnage is a movie for you. If the limit of your humour starts and ends with Jack & Jill or Dumb & Dumber, then step away from this vehicle.