Friday, January 13, 2012



Carnage After two teenage boys have a fight in a playground, what should their parents do to resolve the aftermath? Suburban middle class parents might report to the school or the police. Gangster parents might drive by and shoot out a round. Chinese parents under one-child-policy might have a shouting match in public.

However, none of that happens in celebrated and controversial director Roman Polanski's new film "Carnage" (France/Germany/Poland 2011 | 79 min.), besides the shouting match part. The parents' diplomatic meeting turns into a carnage about character, marriage, ideology, philosophy, and anything but settling children's dispute.

After Ethan loses two teeth to Zachary during a teenager brawl in a playground, their parents decide to get together to "settle" the issue, politely and civilly.

Zachary's parents are lawyer Nancy (Kate Winslet) and banker Alan (Christoph Waltz). Ethan's parents are writer Penelope (Jodie Foster) and wholesaler Michael (John C. Reilly).

Their pretentiously civilized discussion does not last long before all hell breaks out. Each of them reveals deeply suppressed anger, grudge, discontent, and self-righteousness. It is anything but civilized and eloquent.

Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet in Carnage

The film is based on Yasmina Reza's French play "God of Carnage" and it changes the location to Penelope and Michael's expensive high-rise apartment in New York City—it supposed to be in New York City anyway, although obviously Roman Polanski has not stepped on the US soil since he fled in 1978.

Oddly, even this is no longer a stage production, the entire film is still confined in this cozy apartment, very much like it is recording a stage production. Like these characters, we are unable to escape this confinement. By no means Alan and Nancy enjoy the company of Penelope and Michael. Yet, even after they step out the door, Alan and Nancy are mysteriously dragged back into the apartment for another round of argument and debate, as if there is a magic force inside the apartment.

The truth is that if they had left as people do in a real life situation, none of these four fine actors would have the opportunity to give slightly exaggerated on-stage-style performance as in this film. Nothing would have happened.

Therefore, the four adults are grounded into this apartment in order to develop their high drama and to vent their frustration.

They should have gone outside and breath some fresh air. That way, perhaps they would not be that grumpy and become happier. That would be a different movie instead of the recording of a stage play.

"Carnage," a Sony Pictures Classics release, opens on Friday, January 13, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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