Susan Granger's review of 'Carnage'
Set in New York City and shot in real time, this brutally edgy, biting comedy revolves around differences in bourgeois ethics and styles of parenting.
After a playground incident in which one young boy knocks out another boy's front teeth with a stick, the protective parents of the `victim' invite the chagrined parents of the `bully' to their Brooklyn apartment to work out their issues. While it begins as a request for an apology and a polite discussion about childrearing, it soon deteriorates into ferocious verbal warfare, and none of them escapes the carnage.
As Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) Longstreet are filing an insurance claim against Nancy and Alan Cowan, they begin to bicker about the wording of the document. A stressed-out, uptight investment broker, Nancy (Kate Winslet) feels guilty about the time she spends away from her son, a sentiment that is not shared by her amoral, cell-phone addicted, lawyer husband, Alan (Christoph Waltz). An angry liberal, Penelope finds the Cowans' behavior `disgusting,' while genial Michael, a hardware supply salesman, just wants everyone to try to get along, breaking out Bruichladdich 18 year-old single-malt Scotch to put all four of them at ease. Instead, the tension not only between the couples but also their spouses grows perceptibly tighter, as the veil of civility is lifted.
Directed and adapted by Roman Polanski ("The Pianist") from Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play, "God of Carnage," it's a savagely satirical commentary on morality and psychology, like a welterweight version of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
Problem is: Jodie Foster is miscast and that dilutes the ensemble's effectiveness. On-stage, Marcia Gay Harden was able to make the same psycho-babbling character less brittle and far more vulnerable, particularly after Kate Winslet's Nancy eats her apple cobbler and then projectile vomits onto the coffee table, staining Penelope's treasured old book of Oskar Kokoschka paintings.
Aimed at mature art house audiences, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Carnage" is a slick, simmering, scathing 7 - with a suitably ironic conclusion.