DVD Review - Carnage

It's been a long while since I've seen a film that I've really disliked, but I really disliked this movie. The writing, the acting and the direction were all horrible. Based on the play "Le Dieu du Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, translated by Michael Katims, and written and directed by Roman Polanski, this movie stars Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as two New York couples who have a long, windy and divergent conversation, springing from an attack between their respective sons.

There have been many stage plays that have been adapted to the silver screen. Last year, I did a retrospective on the late Sidney Lumet who was a master at adapting stage plays into movies, as was Mike Nichols. Polanski could have learned some lessons from Lumet or Nichols. First lesson is determining if a stage play is even worthy of adaptation, which I'm not sure this was. Just because a play is worthy of Broadway doesn't mean it's worthy of Hollywood.

Clearly, the way the play was designed is supposed to have it occur in real time, taking place all in one room with the characters seemingly trapped there. Polanski attempts to re-create this, almost exactly and therein lies his first mistake. As a play, it makes sense to have the events unfold as they do but, as a movie, it's dull, tedious, frustrating and to a point idiotic.

Having it be idiotic might be intentional because it essentially is a comedy. A lot of the humor comes out of the dialogue, which is very intellectual. Not all of it is high-fallutin. From hamsters to cobbler vomit to doodle and darjeeling, there is some humor that isn't so high above our heads, but in the way that it's played, it doesn't work.

One example is a gag involving Christoph Waltz who plays Alan Cowan, the husband of Kate Winslet's Nancy. Alan is constantly taking calls on his cell phone, taking him from important points of discussion, much to the annoyance of the others. It's a gag that keeps repeating and after a while you get the gag but I simply wasn't laughing. I was sighing because I knew what the actors and director were trying to do but was disappointed at their inability to accomplish it. The rhythm just wasn't right or perhaps there wasn't any rhythm at all.

I like the four actors in it. All of them have received some kind of Oscar recognition and deservedly so, but the two guys here weren't really doing anything beyond their normal shticks. The two women were on the other hand, but they go too far beyond their normal shticks, way too far beyond, to the point of discomfort.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.


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