Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Carnage" (2011) - Movie Review

The feeling of being a father is something I have not yet experienced but I can see how a parent reacts when their kid is involved in a conflict. What is the stands on it? Do they stand by them even when their kids are wrong and would team up to stand against their bully or intimidator or spread the wise words of civility to resolve the conflict? Of course the obvious choice is the latter which is how “Carnage” begins as the parents Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reily) invite Nancy Cowan (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) but the undertones of defense and offense cannot be stronger and it bubbles and bursts into one big chaotic finale.

Surely one immediately gets the feeling of watching a play as it is adapted from one titled “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Raza who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roman Polanski. The meeting is underway because we see Longstreet’s son Ethan got hit by a stick on face by Cowan’s son Zachary in the opening scene. As they assemble to sort out this in the most civilized awkward manner, they come to realize they are not that civilized after all. Soon the ugliness of the marriage, male chauvinism and feminism springs bright and might.

Roman Polanski directs this venture which cannot have better promising scenes in the beginning. As the obvious eruption of emotions are awaiting, somewhere it goes from realistically crazy to unbelievably nuts. What drives the film are the undertones, the subtlety of insinuations and accusations both parents bring on each other. Clearly Nancy has dragged the lawyer man Alan into this meeting. Both of them at different times keep trying to get out of the place only to be stopped by each other or by the Longstreets.

Alan is in the middle of a crisis of advising a pharmaceutical company to deny allegations that their drug is causing hazardous effects on its patients. He is the sort of person who can be effortlessly rude and accepts it as his characteristics as his defense. He consistently gets phone calls which he insensitively picks up and talks leisurely while enjoying the cobbler his hosts provided him as the rest of the audience stare in absolute awkwardness.

Nancy cannot stand Alan’s detachment from this situation. She has had at it of him being outside of the family in not being involved. Then comes Penelope who tries really hard and struggling to control her anger on this whole issue as she is conflicted in her life of civility and righteousness. In between is her husband Michael, the simplest man in the middle of this seeing for what it is. He is the man like Alan in a different way.

Amongst these exists coalitions, character assassinations, name callings, blame, betrayal, issues of marriage, puking (a lot of it) and drinking (a lot of it). All in a day when two parents with lot of issues meet up right? Polanski I believe is attracted towards the gangs each of them take and under different routines. Soon enough the original issue gets away paving great deal of dissection onto the personalities of each other and their relationships. Penelope wants accountability, Alan thinks it is the way of the world, Nancy thinks Alan needs to be a father and Michael wants to cut all this crap.

That is the spine of this film where sides are taken in unexpected manner and twists are delivered in the unlikely way. It is carried on without a hiccup for most of its 79 minutes but goes berserk as the intention was in the last 20 minutes. The idea of the film is to blow this out of proportion in the ridiculous unbelievability to provide a strange kind of comedy, drama and chaos but it works against the film leaving us in disbelief.

The brutality of human behaviour is when it is shed down to its minimum in terms of survival. It steps down from community to family to couple to male/female to individuals. The film takes that step and animates it as it gets closer to the individuals. By the time Penelope is excruciatingly sobbing and screaming out of her lungs and as we feel the throat pain seeing her, we are not sure about the comedy or the drama and we are not sure about the seriousness of the film either. This of course is an actor’s dream assignment as the team of excellent cast take over this material. Of course us men would be enthralled by the simplicity and class of Christoph Waltz and by the open and brotherly John C. Reily. And I think us me will be annoyed by the drama in Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster as they elevate through their alcohol. I would like to hear what did the women think of these men and the women. When the chips are down men will be men and women will be women? May be that is the point Polanski was trying to make.

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