22 July 2012

Carnage (movie review)

Carnage is a very minimalistic comedy starring some heavy weight actors – Cristoph Waltz, John C Reilly, Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster. The production, the way it is filmed, the heavy emphasis on dialogue and the actors alone in this confined apartment that makes up the set for this movie almost feels like a “film school project “kind of movie.

Still Carnage provides a very funny and bizarre story which begins with two boys fighting over something that we don’t know (the scene is shot from afar). One of the boys ends up hitting the other with a stick across the face. The movie then cuts to the apartment where the parents of the “victim” are writing a letter explaining what happened to the insurance company (or something like that) with the parents of the “perpetrator” standing over their shoulder and correcting the severe wording (“armed with a stick” LOL).

Apparently both pair of parents agreed to meet and talk through what had happened. This opens up for a lot of uncomfortable and forced situations where everyone is expected to appear balanced and adult and discuss the behavior of their children in a fair way – but of course end up favoring their own kid and questioning the other kid and the other parents.

The acting from the male leads is phenomenal, Christoph Waltz is such a great actor and a big favorite of mine. I am really sorry that he wasn’t “discovered” up until a couple of years ago – because he is now 55 and I don’t think that he will be able to get that many more movies done during his career as he would truly deserve. He is excellent at playing quirky characters and in Carnage he plays this big shot lawyer tied up in a pharmaceutical lawsuit constantly taking calls on his cellphone while being in this “parent meeting”. His character also doesn’t really give a shit about the whole situation, his take is that “boys will be boys” and that the parents should not meddle as they know nothing about what led to the fight.

John C Reilly plays the victim’s dad, and you can see how his wife has drilled him hard in behaving nice and he tries to smooth over the differences and the occasional anger. John C Reilly is also perfect in this role, and as the movie progresses he gets more and more fed up with his wife’s pacifist “save the world” bullshit take on the world. Reilly plays a “working man” and is a salesman who sells doorknobs and toilet flush mechanism (there is a very funny scene with him and Waltz discussing flush mechanisms).

The wife’s are not as good, and I think this has mainly to do with the writing. Jodie Foster plays the mom of the victim and is a pacifistic art connoisseur who collects art books, writes about civil war in Darfur Africa and just oozes of self righteousness. There are great dialogue scenes between her and the no BS character of Waltz. Fosters character works in a book store and you really get that the couple of the victim are “middle class” people.

Kate Winslet plays Waltz wife, and is some kind of stock broker IIRC, and she and Waltz are really the upper class citizens with “important jobs”. The dialogue the wives have to work with, and Kate Winslet’s character in particular does not flow as naturally as the dialogue of the men but still works for the most part of the movie. But I still got the impression that the female dialogue felt a lot more “written” than the natural exchange of words delivered by the male characters.

Still, it’s not that bad, and the John C Reilly/Cristoph Waltz characters more than make up for this flaw in the writing. The movie is funny, it’s not laugh out loud funny, but rather leaves you smiling throughout it because of the absurd situation, escalating hypocrisy and brutal honesty of the two parent couples. It all starts out so stiff and polite, ends with puking and drunken swearing.

The movie is also very short, running time 1 hour 20 minutes but in reality the credits take up 5 or so minutes. So it really goes by very fast. At the same time I don’t think it could have been longer as the confined space and character development really reached a natural end when the movie ended.

It’s a solid 7/10, if Cristoph Waltz is in it then it's enough for me to watch a movie. The score could have been higher if the female parts were a bit better written (less hysterical and over the top).

1 comment:

  1. This movie feels almost like a theatre play, loved it when I saw it, very entertaining with really great dialogues.

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