Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Roman Polanski
Screenwriters: Yasmina Reza
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz
Carnage has a wordless stunner of an opening shot, a startling and beautifully economical mini-prologue that put me in mind of the deceptive ease with which Polanski played the audience like a piano in early horror films like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. Things go downhill right quick, since we are then immediately trapped in a Manhattan apartment with four people – two couples having a pow wow after a playground fight between their sons – determined to eviscerate each other in the most tediously schematic possible ways. Yes, this is an adaptation of one of those plays where loathsome well-to-do socialites of various flavors come together to methodically reveal just how loathsome they are; in this case, each one of them is an asshole just so, and they angrily turn on each other in various permutations at regular, meticulously timed intervals. Jodie Foster, in particular, wrestles with the most thankless role of her career, playing a shallow, irredeemable caricature of a big-city liberal (married, for some reason, to a caricature of a bloviating simple-country-conservative, played with typical jolly-seeming hostility by John C. Reilly); the incessantly shrill screenplay, which playwright Yasmina Reza co-wrote with Polanski, doesn’t allow Foster to evoke any emotion other than “get this woman away from me.” A few chuckles (I liked Christoph Waltz’s almost gremlin-like performance as the father of the aggressor, and loved his evident delight as the meeting deteriorates into rancor) and a couple fleeting moments of insight (Foster’s angry despair over damage to her coffee table book tempered by the imperative to be polite), but for the most part Carnage is a hideously artificial whiff.
— Eugene Novikov