“A Darkly Comedic Look at Chaotic Personalities” 9/10
Carnage is a fascinating and darkly comedic drama that certainly lives up to its title. Two pairs of parents, the Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) and the Longstreets (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster) meet up to discuss an incident involving a tussle between their two sons. The Longstreets invite the Cowans over to their apartment to discuss the appropriate next steps, however the discussion ends up snowballing into total carnage.
Nearly the entire film is set in the one room, the Longstreet’s lounge, which in itself makes for fascinating viewing, creating a caged-in, uncomfortable atmosphere. At the beginning the two sets of parents do not know each other, intensifying that discomfort, and as a viewer watching that one room for the entire film becomes more and more enveloping – towards the end I felt as if I too were trapped in the apartment, unable to escape the spiralling chaos that was unfolding. The film is based on the play “God of Carnage” which I have seen and enjoyed, so I was glad to see that the effectiveness of the staging had not been lost in its move to the screen. A good casting was a strong contributing factor in creating this effect of being “drawn in” – in particular the two actresses. This film is all about clashes and is demonstrated most strongly in the characters. Winslet’s character is anxious and stressed, keen to move on quickly from the incident with the least fuss; whilst Foster’s character is much more ideological and full of very firm and unchanging views on the world, believing that her son deserves more than just a quick apology. The two men are also wildly different: Reilly’s character is accommodating and free-flowing (a stark contrast from his wife too) and Waltz, a seriously underrated actor who I would love to see in more things, is a detached father who’s primary concern is his work. I always find films with character clashes fascinating and this one does it to perfection, embracing some parenting stereotypes to bring the story to a head.
It’s difficult to discuss the story without revealing anything about the plot or spoiling the way it unfolds. It is however really quite realistic of how an argument between complete strangers can develop, eventually skewing this out of proportion as the story progresses. The ending is bizarre – when I first saw it I felt it was very anti-climactic, however upon reflection I realised that it was actually the best ending that the film could have had. Some may disagree but I felt that any other ending would have been cheesy or disappointing.
Carnage is fascinating and darkly comedic throughout and features a strong cast of wonderfully different characters. Although the story might be, at times, outrageously exaggerated, I think it’s an interesting watch because it stems from such a believable place. It’s definitely one to spend some time reflecting on afterwards.