Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Polanski's Carnage: Reviews, Oscar Prospects

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 1, 2011 at 1:03AM

Roman Polanski's Carnage played well in Venice and opened the New York Film Festival Friday night. Adapted by Polanski from Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning comedy God of Carnage, which was a hit in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, the movie will be catnip for Sony Pictures Classics' target art house adult demo when it opens December 16. Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly are all stellar as two well-heeled New York couples who start out politely trying to negotiate an apology from one pugnacious son for knocking out the other's front teeth with a stick. Things deteriorate from there.
5
Polanski's Carnage: Reviews, Oscar Prospects
Thompson on Hollywood

Roman Polanski's Carnage played well in Venice and opened the New York Film Festival Friday night. Adapted by Polanski from Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning comedy God of Carnage, which was a hit in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, the movie will be catnip for Sony Pictures Classics' target art house adult demo when it opens December 16. Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly are all stellar as two well-heeled New York couples who start out politely trying to negotiate an apology from one pugnacious son for knocking out the other's front teeth with a stick. Things deteriorate from there.

Waltz glowers as a cell-phone wielding master-of-the-universe lawyer, while Kate Winslet is spot-on as his uptight investment banker wife, who not only memorably loses her cookies but her temper over the course of an afternoon. John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster play the nominally more evolved parents of the bashed kid, but all is not as it seems and 18-year-old Scotch effectively loosens tongues and emotions. The movie is wickedly funny and Polanski clearly had a blast shooting it on a Paris set dressed to look like Brooklyn.

But is it Oscar fodder?

Polanski has earned five nominations over the years (Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Tess) and even while in exile in Paris, he won the best director Oscar in 2003 for The Pianist, which also won best actor for Adrien Brody. But that was a grim holocaust drama; Carnage is much lighter on its feet. Good as they all are, it's hard to imagine which of these actors will grab an Oscar toehold. Three are Oscar winners and Reilly is a one-time nominee (Chicago), but it's hard to argue that any outstrips their previously lauded work.

While the movie won't maintain its 100% Tomatometer score after more critics weigh in (Metacritic is at 77), the fact that many reviewers (see sampling below) negatively compare Carnage to Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won't lend it awards gravitas. Reviewers agree that the film is well worth watching, with powerhouse comedic performances, but falls short of greater ambitions or larger implications. Exactly.

Richard Corliss, Time

But trap four people in a tight space, let minor animosities fester, add too much liquor and watch the venom fly. Spousal comity disappears, parental protectiveness turns to hatred of children, long-suppressed resentments flare up between and within the couples, and a cell phone and a purse will become guided missiles of revenge. Carnage is a marital-arts action film with words as the weapons of domestic destruction...Polanski, across a peripatetic career that now spans a half-century, has always been fascinated by the drama of people imprisoned in an apartment: Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, Polanski himself in The Tenant. His sardonic world view, impressed on him as an orphan boy dodging the Nazis, sees through the veneer of good manners to the animal inside. Working here in miniature, he finds the collapse of civilization in Foster's forced smile, ready to crack like dime-store pottery, and the first burst of revolution in the Alien-like moment when Nancy, sick with nerves and perhaps on her hosts' apple cobbler, violently vomits onto Penelope's treasured old book of Kokoschka paintings.

Josh Ralske, Press Play

“Comic dread” is not a phrase I’ve used often, and while there’s usually a darkly humorous element to Polanski’s work, the handful of his films that could be considered “comedies” are among his least successful. In fact, Carnage, with its almost farcical reversals and building chaos, is probably the only great comedy he’s ever made…While these two couples are trapped, almost like Buñuel’s famous dinner party guests, the audience never feels that way. Any film that makes me laugh as much as this film did, that’s this smart and precise and vibrantly acted, and that sends me from the theater with something to talk about, well, that film gets a strong recommendation, however short it may fall of its aspirations to profundity and greatness.

Leah Rozen, The Wrap

Soon, relations between the couples and, eventually, spouses grow tense and nasty. Everyone starts to behave badly (puking, drinking too much, throwing objects, etc.) and to verbally eviscerate one another. Grownup life, it would seem, is just a larger, nastier version of the playground.nAll of which is amusing to watch but ends up meaning very little. “Carnage’s” laughs come from the vicarious thrill of watching people voice what most of us have, at some time, wanted to say but were too polite or cowed to do so. Essentially, this is a lightweight version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” lacking the true bite and emotional undertow of Edward Albee’s classic drama.

Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine

Wry to its succulently written bone, Carnage, an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning God of Carnage, begins on the war zone of a playground, where a dispute between two boys leaves one with two missing teeth and a nerve in his mouth partially exposed. From there, Polanski moves us to another war zone: a warmly posh Brooklyn apartment where the parents of both boys wear at each other's "sense of community." Just as the implications of what happened on the playground have been parsed to the satisfaction of all parties and a door has been opened, or an elevator button has been pushed, someone insists on a provocative last word and the dispute resumes. The ego sets no one free.

Xan Brookes, The Guardian

Director Roman Polanski has rustled up a pitch-black farce of the charmless bourgeoisie that is indulgent, actorly and so unbearably tense I found myself gulping for air and praying for release. Hang on to your armrest and break out the scotch. These people are about to go off like Roman candles… the film barely puts a foot wrong. The acting comes at full throttle while the pacing cranks up the tension in agonising, incremental degrees. At one point this is all too much for Nancy, who proceeds to vomit copiously over the coffee table, coating Penelope's cherished Oskar Kokoschka book. It is an astonishing scene, an icebreaker like no other. And at the Venice screening, the viewers greeted it with a wild abandon, howling with delight and applauding like thunder, perhaps relieved that someone had cracked before they did themselves.

Lou Lumenick, New York Post

It’s safe to say that Roman Polanski does not harbor warm feelings toward the US, whose officials have long refused to accept his “genius’’ as an excuse to pardon Polanski after he fled sentencing following a guilty plea to having sex with a minor. So it’s somewhat surprising that, handed an opportunity to skewer bourgeois American mores with “Carnage,’’ his first film set here since he began his long life as a fugitive from justice, Polanski pretty much avoids going for the jugular. It’s often a hoot, but the pressure cooker that is “Carnage’’ never boils over and scalds like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’’ which remains the gold standard for a four-person dramatic movie.

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Reviews, Career Watch, Drama, comedy, Jodie Foster


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.