Setting aside Roman Polanski’s personal affairs, the guy is a stellar filmmaker. If it weren’t so, he wouldn’t have a career anymore. But here he is still making acclaimed films with A-list actors as if nothing ever happened. After watching ‘Carnage’, you’ll be happy that he still is.
The film opens with a distant shot of a single kid using a tree branch as a walking staff. As he walks up to a group of kids, we don’t hear their dialogue, but it’s obvious that he’s been picked-on and rejected. Hoping to avoid confrontation, he walks away. When the leader of the group follows and starts to bully him, looking like he’s going to pummel him at any second, the retreating kid swings the branch and connects with the bully’s mouth. End scene.
Based on Yasmina Reza’s French play ‘God of Carnage’, Polanski’s film is a real-time situational comedy about the parents of the bully and the branch-swinger. They decide to meet, in order to devise a plan to rectify the events and get their sons to make up. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play one couple, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz the other.
Aside from the bookend scenes, the entire movie is their meeting. While the characters put on a façade of playing nicely, their true colors shine as they end up in a vicious battle to prove who the better parents are and whose kid is in the right. No matter how many times they try to end the party and go their separate ways, each couple has to have the last word.
Although it may sound like you have to be a parent to get the comedy of ‘Carnage’, you definitely do not. I compare it to situational British comedy. As long as you’re alert, and can read between the lines and recognize condescending behavior, you’ll get it.
Hats off to all four of the actors. Throughout the film, they continually pass the torch of absurdity, one-upping each other with childish behavior each time. Considering the short 80-minute runtime, ‘Carnage’ has the highest concentrated amount of comedy I’ve experienced in years. It’s one of those films you walk away from rubbing your cheeks and mouth because you laughed so hard and held a perpetual smile. It’s a strong adaptation of a brilliant stage play.