One of my favorite performances of all time was Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” Taylor’s role is that of Martha, the alcoholic wife who is unhappy the path her life has taken and where she is in her life and marriage. When a young couple comes to their home for the evening and Virginia begins drinking all hell breaks loose and everyone’s true thoughts become well known. It’s a dramatic powerhouse of acting and a sharp script that has truly stood the test of time.
Roman Polanski’s latest film has a very similar feel to Virginia Woolf in which two couples come together to discuss a recent physical altercation between their eleven year old sons. As the afternoon goes on tension rises between the couples and amongst the married couples themselves. Carnage being the title of the film undoubtedly describes what ensues of the course of the afternoon while the two couples attempt to resolve whatever issues there are between the boys. The disagreements between parenting styles and personal life create a hot bed of personality clashes.
Polanski has masterfully crafted a film that could easily toe the line between comedy and drama that the subject matter so easily created. While Virginia Woolf took the dramatic side of the situation, Carnage no doubt takes the comedic side and with a biting humor that has you shocked that you are laughing.
With a cast of only 4 the film is still superbly acted and casted. John C. Reilly plays the husband of Jody Foster and tries to be the peacemaker of any awkward situation that is on the horizon. Jody Foster is nervously trying to handle the situation professionally as tho this is a business transaction. Christoph Waltz who plays the Husband of Kate Winslet is the disinterested Attorney who’s mind is always at the office while his wife, Winslet, is just trying to make sense of why the situation amongst the boys presented itself and how to prevent it from happening again.
With all four actors masterfully delivering a plethora of dialogue and running the gamut of emotions all with such intelligent wit that falls into near slapstick humor when the bottle of eighteen year old scotch gets opened and all start dabbling and everyones true feelings begin pouring out.
Much like the very uncomfortable feeling Virginia Woolf gave off the same feelings are felt in Carnage but are relieved when you can’t help but let laughter out at some of the off the wall thinking and comments that are then made.
Polanski has weaved a fine film with such minimal elements and relied heavily on the smart script and the intelligence that the audience posses to make a fine film that will leave you wanting more and ultimately make you feel a little bit sorry for the kids that have to deal with parents like these. These are parents so obsessed with making such a perfect life that they have found themselves at the polar opposite of such a life.
While the film is very short on time being only 79 minutes long, there is so much packed in the short time you don’t feel short changed by any means. John C. Reilly didn’t get the accolades that Foster and Winslet received but he has proven to be one of the great comedic actors working. Whether or not Reilly is being off the wall silly with his good friend Will Ferrel or whether he is being intelligent and tickling your mind in Carnage he has truly made an art form of comedic acting and this film is no different.
It’s a film well worth your time if you are looking for a laugh but don’t want to be treated like your comedic intelligence is so low that only the lowest humor will do. Be prepared for a smart comedy that doesn’t leave you feeling dumber for having just watched but will still leave you laughing after it’s over.