R, 1 hr. 20 min. Directed By: Roman Polanski. In Theaters: Dec 16, 2011. On DVD: Mar 20, 2012.
Carnage is an interesting movie. It bills itself as a “black comedy” a genre which I think really doesn’t have a single definition. In very vague terms I’d accept a black comedy as a movie that finds humor in situations that we are not socially prepared to accept as humorous. Funerals are an obvious choice as a setting for a black comedies, as are murders and various other violent crimes. However, for a movie to be a black comedy, there has to be some comedy, and I think it was a little lacking until the last… 20 minutes or so of the run time.
But, I’ll give credit where credit’s due: when this movie gets funny, it gets really funny. As soon as the bottle of scotch comes out, the four-person cast does an excellent job portraying the transition from sober to schnockered, and the claws that have been politely sheathed during this borderline civil conversation come out to play. Jodie Foster’s Penelope, in particular, makes a startling transition from mild-mannered, socially conscious woman to raving lunatic in just a few shots.
I’d heard a few things about Carnage back when it was one of the sources of film ‘buzz’. Most of what I heard was vaguely negatively, a little was vaguely positive, but no one wanted to come out and just say either “hey, I loved this,” or “this stunk soooo bad.” I get why now, and I think this is an example of the movie that made me chose to rate on two factors: my gut reaction to the movie and my head’s reaction.
I can’t complain about the techniques used to put this movie together. Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet were amazing. John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz were very good. The scenes feel awkward, or out-of-control, or out-of-control amusing as they would in real life when this kind of thing happens. It’s a movie that speaks quiet volumes about what has become of parenting in America, and what kind of behavior parents are prepared to accept from their children. It’s not a nice picture. The ending suggests that frequently children are more capable of handling conflict than their parents. The movie is set in a single New York apartment, smallish, and the scenes are shot well enough (and have enough movement in them) for the audience not to feel stifled by the closeness.
But this wans’t really an enjoyable movie from an entertainment perspective. It wasn’t fun, even when humor was being attempted. There were no light-hearted moments to help us pretend that this wasn’t awkward, and that we were comfortable with the discussion between two sets of parents. I crossed this off my list of ‘to see’ movies from 2011, but I’m not real happy about having seen it. I guess it’s safe to say that there was no emotional satisfaction from having watched this.
But what it lacks in entertainment is more than made up by intellectual fulfillment. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit heavy and serious, this would be a good place to look.