Monday, March 12, 2012

Carnage (2011)

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz

Based on Yasmina Reza’s stage play, God of Carnage, director Roman Polanksi delivers his version to the big screen in his latest film, Carnage. Actually, Polanski does not deviate from the original script, with the exception of the opening and ending scenes of the film.

Set in a upscale Manhattan apartment, the narrative of the story is about two 11 year old boys who get into a fight at a neighborhood park; one of the boys is on the losing end of the fight, and one is the victor. The boy's parents are brought together by the incident to discuss how to best deal with the situation. The entire film takes place in the apartment of the Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly.) Their son Ethan had his front teeth knocked out in a fight with the son of Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz.) The meeting, which is intended on being civil, turns from how amends can be made into whose child is to blame for the incident. Moreover, the topic of conversation rapidly escalates into who are the better parents, and who is the better person for that matter. The actual "carnage" in this film isn't from the fight beteewn the boys, but the argument between the parents.

What starts out as a late morning meeting at the apartment, soon progresses well into the late afternoon. Polanski does a good job of complimenting this part of the film by changing the lighting of the set, showing the time progression of the story.  The hilarity of the plot line ensues almost immediately after the opening shot of the fight between the two boys. The four characters in the film do an excellent job in their respective roles of upper-class, well-to-do Manhattans. Christoph Waltz nails his character of Alan Cowan; who as a high-powered attorney is uninvolved with his personal life, but overly involved with work.  His constant cell-phone interruptions during the meeting are annoying to the point of being funny, and add greatly to the narrative of the plot. However, the character who basically steals the entire script of the film is that of Penelope Longstreet. Jodie Foster does an excellent job of playing a neurotic, uptight, overbearing mother and wife.

I'm going to date myself here, but when I was a child, if two kids from my neighborhood got into a fight, it was usually settled with that. By the next day you were playing with that same kid that you just "duked it out" with the day before. Most parents I knew as a child stayed out of the "street politics" of the kids in the neighborhood. There were no threat of lawsuits, and parents didn't bicker back and forth as to who had the most well behaved child.  Boys will be boys, and although they may be unpleasant, altercations between two boys in a neighborhood are nothing out of the norm.  Roman Polanski gives a true example in this film of what our society seems to have boiled down to when it comes to raising children.  The parents in this film prove that they are making a big deal out of nothing, but is it just because they are "Uppity New Yorkers?" Or is this a showcase of the norm in today's society?

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