"We should get together again and shine our awards."
*** (out of four)
When Nancy (Kate Winslet) vomits all over Penelope’s (Jodie Foster) coffee table art books midway into the darkly funny “Carnage,” it’s not the last time something comes up that can’t be suppressed anymore.
This big-screen adaptation of the hit play “God of Carnage,” in which two couples (Foster and John C. Reilly/Winslet and Christoph Waltz) discuss one of their sons attacking the other with a stick, exclusively features characters that have been dying for an opportunity to say everything that’s been bubbling inside them.
The conversation begins as civilly as can be expected. Then it starts going on uncomfortably long. Then supposedly delicious cobbler doesn’t sit too well with Nancy. Then all bets are off.
Adapted by director/co-writer Roman Polanski with playwright Yasmina Reza, “Carnage” certainly feels like a play. Movies in which four people never leave a New York apartment—aside from brief flirtations with the hallway outside, only to return to the apartment—tend to do that.
The performances (especially Waltz) breathe fire into an already enthralling conversation as allegiances shift and people lose control of their self-policed raw nerves. Not every topic of discussion becomes more than a confession; Waltz’s character calling his own son a maniac holds more intrigue than Reilly’s character criticizing monogamy. But the purging never ceases to illuminate the edges of jagged language and its impact on parents who thought they could avoid acting like kids.
How easily sincerity looks like pretension or stupidity from someone else’s perspective.
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