Direction: Roman Polanski
Cast: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet
Rating: *** 1/2
An involving and incredibly funny drama based on the prize winning French play by Yasmina Reza, who also co-authored the screenplay, Carnage is primarily a showcase for a quartet of powerhouse performances.
Taking delight in its crafty composition — the film has only four characters who never leave the confines of a cramped upscale New York apartment — director Polanski introduces us to two sets of parents who come together to discuss the violent altercation between their school-aged sons.
The hosts (Foster-John C Reilly), whose child was attacked in the playground by his classmate, want to talk things through with the parents (Winslet-Christoph Waltz) of the young assailant.
As the discussion drags on, their seemingly calm exterior is shattered and attempts at conciliation explode into rage. Amusingly, the guest couple simply cannot bring themselves to leave their hosts’ home frequently returning from the front door to partake of more liquor, cookies and cigars.
With shades of the scorching — and superior — Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), the script strips away the façade of bourgeois respectability which shields the characters from their true transgressive natures.
Not surprisingly, as alliances shift along gender lines the strain in marital relationships becomes more palpable. There are not too many actors who can deliver the bare honesty and believable dramatics that such roles demand. Luckily, the Academy Award winning foursome measure up to the challenge, none more so than Christoph Waltz as the cellphone obsessed alpha-male. Ultimately, Carnage should restore Roman Polanski’s reputation as one of the eminent auteurs in contemporary cinema.