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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Carnage (Limited Release Date: 12-16-2011)

        No matter what they do, Alan and Nancy Cowan can't leave the Longstreets' apartment. They say their pleasantries, offer their thanks, gravitate towards the elevator, knowing that only it can save them, but no dice. For some inexplicable reason, they just can't quite escape. Like a modern take on No Exit or The Exterminating Angel, Roman Polanski's newest, adapted from Yasmina Reza's award-winning play The God of Carnage, is about a group of people that might not like each other, but for one reason or another, they're completely, immovably sewn together.

        The initial reason for the Cowans' visit is simple enough; Each couple has a son at the same school, and the Cowan offspring recently took the liberty of swinging a sizable stick into the Longstreet boy's face, bruising his face, and damaging his teeth. The four guardians of the two young boys have come together to decide what the next appropriate action would be. Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) thinks that the Cowan boy ought to apologize, and Nancy (Kate Winslet) agrees, at least on the surface. Alan, however, is more content to make side comments under his breath about Penelope's passive-agressive ways, while her husband simply does his best to help the whole thing go off smoothly. It's clear from they very start that this is no good, and it all takes a turn for the worst sooner than you might expect.

        Credit Carnage for being gutsy enough to take place in real time; The film lasts for under 80 minutes, the entirety of which spent in the four-or-so rooms of the Longstreets' apartment, the camera never allowing time to elapse unnoticed. It's a fun sort of challenge, the unique nature of which is admirable, but even at its measly length, there are still themes, motifs, sayings, and whatever else that are brought up over and over again, seemingly just to pad the runtime. Still, this is a funny, alluring, and dangerous sort of movie, holding up a fun-house mirror to our own self importance (or lack there of), and letting you see just how ugly it can get. It's a true credit to both the cast (all of which are extremely strong) and the writing that Carnage's nasty themes and implications coax out as much laughter as they do. Moments of the film are genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious, then tempered by a character's philosophical musings, or Pawel Edelman's impossibly communicative camera work, both of which placing it back on its feet, setting up another hardy guffaw. Coming from a master of cinema, this is kind of a slight effort, but its one as full of intrigue as it is knee-slappers and great performances.

Grade: B+

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