Carnage (***)

Polanski handles comedy well in his newest "Carnage"...

Roman Polanski has created some of the most heart-wrenching and prolific films of the past four decades.  In his newest film, Carnage, Polanski examines two couples as they discuss an altercation between their two children all in real time.  Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet), married with their son, have a hard time communicating between Alan’s pharmaceutical business and Nancy’s constant abrupt illnesses.  Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) are prim and proper and the owner’s of the home where our story takes place, and between Penelope’s badgering about perfection and Michael’s lackadaisical attitude towards life, tensions are building.  The film handles the tension with sure-fire wittiness and ease not withstanding the terrific exchangeable words between our principals, Carnage is a delight for all movie-goers.

Polanski along with co-writer Yasmina Reeza, who also translated and wrote the play, “God of Carnage,” bring a fresh and fast paced dialogue between four very intriguing characters.  While the film, at a staggering and quick 80 minute runtime, plays exceedingly well off the energy of the performers, the downfall ultimately lies in a “loss of steam” vigor that is evident by picture’s end.

Jodie Foster is best-in-show

Jodie Foster delivers the strongest work of the four, pouring herself into a fresh role that ignites discussion and sentiment.  Foster keeps the emotion right at the brim before toppling over but an over-the-top finale fails to wrap up a seemingly believable tale into an uneven storyline.  Kate Winslet, giving exactly what’s asked of her, shows nothing new and exciting but simply a valiant portrayal of a familiar character.  Christoph Waltz ignites the screen as the prominent performer that gains much of the laughs and wit throughout the picture.  His hilarious portrayal is one of the best comedic turns this year and it’s even more surprising to see it come from Waltz.  John C. Reilly, whom started out in heavy hearted dramas like The Hours, Gangs of New York, and The Good Girl but has regulated himself to slapstick comedy like Walk Hard and Step Brothers, gives the perfect dose of farce and performance.  Reilly still remains one of the more underused actors in the business that hasn’t been given the opportunity to show off his real potential.

Polanski’s direction is solid and brings some eventful moments throughout.  He keeps the “play” aspect of the film very clear and evident as the four individuals engage in conversation that will test the very depths of their marriages and selves.  A wonderful overture by Alexandre Desplat is a special treat as the film never delves back into a musical note and relies on the words of the performers to sustain.  A rapid and speedy film experience is exactly what Carnage is all about and ¾ of the way through feels like a good acid trip.  While the film doesn’t enclose in a satisfying manner, it correlates itself alongside films Closer and Betrayal as one of the most interesting dissections of two marriages in quite some time.

Carnage, if not just for the works of its great ensemble, is creditable as one of the slickest comedies of the year.