Miscast and misplayed Carnage fails to make the most out of its individual parts, resulting in an unfunny and uncomfortable drag about an adult squabble of the immature kind.
They say casting is everything and with such precise characters as those featured in Carnage, it is an apt term.
Four actors star in Carnage. Each one of them – Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet – are phenomenal talents who have wowed us in performances of past. Not so much this time around .
Based on the popular play “God of Carnage” and directed by Roman Polanski, Carnage focuses on two pair of parents: middle class couple Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and upper class Nancy and Alan Cowan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz).
Brought together by a school fight between their sons, the parents try to smooth out the issue with level heads and reserved manner. Yet as the conversation progresses, the Scotch comes out and their frustrations comes to the boil, it doesn’t take long for the adults to start acting like children.
With the whole film set in an apartment, Polanski is not given much room to deliver the goods visually. So it is up to the script and performances to make up for the lack of visual imagination.
That the script is good is a no brainer. The stage play written by Yasmina Reza has had runs in Paris, London and New York where it won two Tony Awards. Essentially it is a drama about conflict in ideology, class, and behaviour, where men face off against women and chaos trumps over civility.
The essential problem with Carnage the movie is who is uttering Reza’s dialogue, with the majority of this four headed monster unable to convincingly portray the characters. Jodie Foster is stunted as the voice of moral rationality, unable to portray the maniacal mannerisms that her character succumbs to. John C. Reilly gives his all as the macho man, yet can’t shake the fuzzy clown persona he has perfected over the years. And while Kate Winslet has her moments, they are too far apart to make for a consistent whole.
Only Christoph Waltz puts in a worthy performance as the antagonistic lawyer with no social graces, constantly talking on his cell phone as if his life depended on it.
The only thing worse than watching good actors turn in bad performances is a witnessing a good director go with the motions, which is exactly what Polanski does here. Even though Carnage is based on a stage play, it does not mean that Polanski had to except the cramped limitations of a stage play, opting to keep the drama in a restricted setting where he uses lazy motives to keep this sorry band of creatures in the one room.
What it turns into is a claustrophobic mess, poorly performed and routinely directed. Considering the talent on hand it should have been much better.