Carnage

Clerk’s Pick

Clerk:
Hannah, Video Central (Columbus, OH)

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Movie:
Carnage
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Pitch:
“The casting is really great. You would think it would be a dark comedy from looking at it, but it is almost more…physical? It is about two couples whose children get into a fistfight on a playground, and they start teaming up against each other over the course of the movie. It is one of those movies where a minor thing winds up becoming a really big deal. I think it was adapted from a play, because it definitely feels really stage-y. I really love the tagline: ‘a comedy of no manners.’

Background:

“Carnage” is a 2011 movie directed and co-written by Roman Polanski, the once-lauded director (and noted scumbag pedophile-on-the-run) who was behind such classic movies as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” “Carnage” is an adaptation from an award-winning French play called “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, who shares co-writing credit on the film with Polanski.

Outside of the opening and closing scenes that are set in a Brooklyn park, the entirety of “Carnage” takes place in a single apartment. The bulk of the scenes were shot in France by Polanski, while the few exteriors and the playground scenes were shot by a second unit in the US (given Polanski is a fugitive and all).

The cast of “Carnage” is very small, and is primarily comprised of notable actors Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly. Foster and Reilly play a couple whose son is attacked by the child of Waltz and Winslet, and the story picks up with the parents meeting to talk over the situation and the consequences for the children.

carnage1The music in “Carnage” is done by french composer Alexandre Desplat, who has recently scored critically-acclaimed films such as “Argo” and “The King’s Speech,” and previously worked on movies such as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Desplat has worked with Polaski on a number of films besides “Carnage,” including on “The Ghost” and “Venus in Furs.”

“Carnage” was nominated for a litany of awards, primarily in Europe. Winslet and Foster both earned Golden Globe nominations, however, but neither of them took home the prize.

Despite the many awards it accrued, the film’s ratings are only moderately above average. It currently holds a 71% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, a 66% audience score, and a 7.2 rating on IMDb.

Review:

“Carnage,” unfortunately, is kind of forgettable. There is nothing particularly bad about the movie, but nothing much stands out about it either. All of these actors are better in other things, and at times it feels like they are just trying too hard to stand out *cough*Jodie Foster*cough*. It seems like they are acting at each other at times, which doesn’t make for a very compelling watch.

carnage4All of that said, the casting is pretty great. These are all generally good actors, but none of them put up their best performances for this one. The best thing I can compare this to is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”, but “Carnage” doesn’t seem to be or feel like it is as heartfelt or genuine as that cinema classic.

I would wager that this is a great play to see on stage, but something just doesn’t gel quite right with this as a film. I’m not sure what the issue is, but the movie feels really run-of-the-mill. I would expect this sort of film from just about any indie director out there, but not Roman Polanski. It just feels oddly…sterile? It is like all of the right elements are being heated in a beaker, but the reaction just isn’t happening.

carnage3“Carnage” interestingly feels like it drags on too long, despite being a pretty short movie (80 minutes). There isn’t a lot of motion to the film, and the characters mostly talk themselves into concentric circles through the story, which is almost certainly why it feels so much longer than it is. After a while, the only interesting thing about the film is watching Academy Award winners pretending to get progressively drunk.

“Carnage” reminded me a little of an earlier Clerk’s Pick, “It’s A Disaster”, but I think that movie was actually pulled off better. It has the same sort of bottle scenario and rapidly degrading sanity that are both present in “Carnage”, but it just seems to move along better. I would wager that “Carnage” offers the better performances of the two, but it just doesn’t feel quite as entertaining.

carnage5After all of the meandering conversation, argumentation, and outright yelling, “Carnage” comes to what feels like a really abrupt ending that doesn’t feel earned or justified. It bookends pretty nicely, but nothing seems to be resolved or changed as a result of the story. I’d also say that no one really learned anything or grew as a result of the story, so it all ultimately feels kind of pointless. Then again, that might have been the point. In any case, I didn’t come out of it feeling entertained.

All of that said, “Carnage” has a very interesting concept. I don’t think it was pulled off particularly well, but there are undoubtedly good elements to it. Although, I will say that I have no idea how either Winslet or (especially) Foster got Golden Globe nominations out of this. That is just boggling my mind, because Foster is just downright chewing scenery in this thing, and Winslet spends a non-trivial part of the movie fake-vomiting.

Recommendation:

I think that some people would really enjoy this movie, but that most would be better advised to skip it. I even like this kind of bottled-setting drama, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with “Carnage.” At times it feels both overacted and excessively preachy, and neither of those things do the movie any favors. If this is the kind of movie you are looking for, I would think that there are a lot better ones to find with very similar setups.

Maybe if you are a big fan of Foster or Winslet, this will be a better watch for you. I am not particularly high on either of them, and their performances in this didn’t change my mind. They certainly look their parts and were cast well, but they just didn’t quite do it for me.

 

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