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Review: "Carnage" is a Mess

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly star in Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Tony-winning play "God of Carnage," a comedy of manners about two pairs of parents brought together by a fight between their sons. Opens Dec. 18. (Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012)

    If you've seen Yasmina Reza's play, "God of Carnage," there's little reason to see "Carnage," Roman Polanski's film adaptation of it. Actually, to be perfectly honest, if you value the way you spend unreclaimable hours and would prefer to keep a positive opinion of people like Jodie Foster, there's even less reason to see it.

    When you get an assemblage of talent like Polanski, Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet and John C. Reilly working on an adaptation of source material that won the Olivier and Tony Award for Best Play in 2009, you have to know expectations will be high and, thusly, so should be the quality of work. That overwhelming sense of effort straining every element might be what makes the play—we mean, film—wait, no, we do mean play—sag. Each dramatic moment is coated with the molasses of dramatic exertion forcing the film's four actors into the inescapable muck of a proscenium presentation that doesn't work as a cinematic experience.

    One of the film's major problems is Reza's original play, which Polanski is inexplicably precious with, changing nothing between the stage and the screen. The story follows two well-to-do couples who meet to discuss the fallout over a schoolyard scuffle between their sons. Trapped in two rooms of a Park Slope apartment, the film should feel claustrophobic and tense. Instead, you keep wondering why Waltz and Winslet's characters are saying they're leaving, getting as far as the elevator several times, only to have them walk right back into the swirling drama of what is commonly known as "rich people problems." We'll tell you why: Because the movie/play would only be twenty minutes if anyone in it behaved like a normal human being. In order for the story's overblown histrionics—complete with projectile vomit—to play out, they can't possibly leave, no matter how much you may want them to, making it a feature film that clocks in at a laborious, grating and much-longer-feeling 80 minutes.

    Foster is shrill and playing to the cheap seats, Reilly is out of his depth, and poor Winslet does what she can with what she's given. Only Waltz has room to play, but even his performance pales in comparison to Tony nominee Jeff Daniels', for those who have trudged through Reza's work in the past.

    "Carnage" is as unlikeable as the people it portrays.

     

    "Carnage" opens in limited release this Friday