By Hemanth Kissoon
“We’re born alone, and we die alone. Who wants some scotch?” Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly)
The premise seems so simple. Two couples meet in one of their apartments to discuss an altercation between their children. The congress is handled with calm aplomb. At first. The situation then escalates into a hilarious verbal annihilation of everyone. The expert acting and writing reminds me of the French film LE DINER DE CONS (which I highly recommend; don’t let the execrable Hollywood remake put you off – DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS). LE DINER shares with CARNAGE a claustrophobia, where the virtual entirety of proceedings happen within an apartment – albeit a spacious one. And while CARNAGE’s theatrical roots are obvious, the sheer masterclass in acting means: who cares? If these four actors were in a play in the West End, people would be auctioning off their first born to catch it. Jodie Foster is buttoned-down excellence, so grating as a politically correct stooge. Reilly channels his dappy charm in a more angry but still fall-on-the-floor funny way. Kate Winslet is both regal and endearing as the frustrated pleaser. And Christoph Waltz nails exasperated insouciance. Roman Polanski’s direction is a little bland for him, but he gets his players to fill the space – framing and grouping them in interesting combinations. Some might say it’s adults as kids, but I don’t think it’s as obvious as that. Perhaps it’s meant to tap into the disappointment of marriage? Family? Certain ideas? Either way, at less than 80 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome.