Roman Polanski directs 79 minutes of uncomfortable dialogue in this adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s stage play God of Carnage (they collaborated on the screenplay). A New York City-based playground brawl set to a bouncy, almost whimsical score serves as the introduction to a war of words between the parents of the two principal young fighters. The microcosm of a setting is a tidy apartment, the characters are archetypes of the modern parent if not the modern American. Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly) is an everyman in the housewares trade, his wife Penelope (Jodie Foster) is a fussy art lover with a penchant for passive-aggressive slights. Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) is a high-powered attorney always glued to his cell phone, his wife Nancy (Kate Winslet) is a poised, well-to-do investment broker. The couples discuss accountability, remorse, and hamsters. Alan and Nancy attempt to depart multiple times, but are consistently pulled back in. Allegiances shift alongside a constantly changing balance of power as the film veers towards existentialism in its brief overview of gender roles, politics, taste…it’s all rather exhausting. Carnage is a thinking man’s comedy (yes, it’s a comedy), but even the deepest thinkers may fail to react to the subtle silliness of it all.
Carnage opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.