Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Get out your coffee table books and apple cobbler, we're reviewing Carnage!
When Nancy(Kate Winslet) and Alan(Christopher Waltz) Cowan's son hits Penelope(Jodie Foster) and Michael(John C. Reilly) Longstreet's son, both groups of parents agree to meet and cordially discuss their sons' altercation. The evening starts out courteous but gets progressively more agressive as tempers flair.

This is based on a play and it feels like it. It's extremely minimalist, with the whole thing taking place in the one apartment setting, mostly in the living room, with only the four main characters. It also feels fairly short. But as it's directed by Roman Polanski and has an amazign cast, it's well shot, well written and has killer performances.

Carnage probably works better as a play as most plays-to-movies usually do, but as a play, it's much harder to see live and you don't get the added bonus of Christopher Waltz for all you Christopher Waltz fans(I know you're out there hiding in the bushes!). And the movie does do a few interesting things with the cinematography and shot set-up. I wouldn't call it as amazing as some other movies, but it's very subtle and very well done.

It's a very interesting premise of a movie. Four people who are trying their damndest to act civilized, who really just want ot tear each other's eyes out, are trapped by that same civility.  It stars off awkward like any social situation, but it feels like there's a ticking time bomb in the room that'll eventually go off. When it all inevitably crumbles and everything comes spewing out(quite literally for some) it's revealed how horrible we can be, and what terrible things we can hide. Every person is hiding an alterior life that they keep at bay for fear of letting it out. Michael tries to be the happiest and friendliest of the bunch but he's possibly the most nihilistic. Penelope is the one who most insists on being civil but she turns out to be the most angry and antagonistic  Alan seems uninterested with everything until he finds a little chink in someone else's armor and systematically tears into them, like the hungry lawyer he is.

I adore this feeling that they're all trapped by their own civility.  Multiple times the Cowans try to leave, sometimes getting all the way to the elevator.  But every time they get pulled back in for one reason or another, "can I offer you a coffee?" when it would be so much less painful to just leave. It reminds me of Sartire's play No Exit, but instead of a locked door, they're trapped by a social construct they build and maintain themselves.

The biggest problem I have with it is the ending. This is a minor spoiler, but at the end, nothing's really resolved. The movie just sort of ends with a lot of questions unanswered. Perhaps that's the point, that nothing CAN be resolved like this, that the ways we've set up to resolve things socially and civilly are a fallacy and will never work. And that's fine for a play, but as a movie, it's kind of annoying.

Have I mentioned how incredible the acting is? Because they each give astounding performances. People probably don't consider John C. Reilly a serious actor, but he can really pull off some amazing stuff.  I love Waltz when he sees an argument and gets that glint in his eye in which he's imagining himslef ripping into that person like a jungle cat. Jodie Foster plays a perfect hysterical mother. Winslet is catty but still fun.

It's an interesting movie for people who like thinking about social constructs and how fragile society is. I wouldn't say you should definitely go out and look for it, but it's very well done and it is worth a watch.

THE GOOD: Great acting, good cinematography, minimalist, good script, very neat concept.

THE BAD: Feels like a play, ending is kind of annoying.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ It's pretty good! I wouldn't say it's soemthing you should watch right away, but if you enjoy plays or movies of people in one room screaming at each other, you'll enjoy this.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, Closer, Sleuth

ONE SCENE-METAPHOR: Michael pushes the Cowans into eating his wife's cobbler. "Here eat it! It's amazing Cobbler! It's not easy to make! Don't leave that one last piece!" It's pretty clear that no one likes the fucking cobbler. But they still eat it because what else are they going to do? NOT eat the cobbler?

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