Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Carnage

Carnage is a movie that puts me in an awkward position, review wise. It's a unique and well made film, with great writing and some memorable performances. It's also incredibly straightforwardly directed, to the point where it feels a tiny bit paint-by-numbers, which is odd for Roman Polanski. This is mostly a result of the film all taking place in, essentially, one room and happening in real time which I suppose is a unique enough hook to forgive a lack of directorial flare.

The story is concerned with two sets of parents meeting because the son of one of the families hit the son of the other with a stick, and the families are attempting a reconciliation. Aside from that the film follows the 4 characters as they continually (and unintentionally) prevent each other and themselves from leaving and tensions rise. The film is primarily devoted to the long slow descent from forced civility to veiled rudeness to outright hostility.

The film shines primarily in it's script and acting. The script manages to handle all four characters in a unique way, piling on the misfortune and circumstances until the characters hit the breaking point. Jodie Foster shines the most as the one who tries the longest to hold onto her civility and falls the farthest when she finally breaks. Christoph Waltz's performance is more downplayed nastiness to contrast Kate Winslet's eventual over the top performance when she gets to the end. But the surprisingly good performance comes from John C Reily who really manages to give his slow descent some really character and depth.

And this is what puts me in an awkward position as a reviewer. Once I've established that the acting and script are great, what am I left to say? The direction is competent but nothing special. The pacing and dialogue are both great, but those both go into the script. It doesn't even seem to have a moral affiliation, however broad. Sure a couple characters are bordering on nihilism, but I don't think we're supposed to agree with any of them. There are a couple flaws, mostly that it's very short and while it's got a solid hook, I can't honestly expect to remember it any real detail a week from now.

So, I guess I have to awkwardly end this review with a recommendation. It's good, it's funny. Go see it. Or you know, you could go see the latest Exorcist ripoff.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he think it must have gotten awkward when John C Reily realized he was the only actor who hadn't won an Oscar.

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