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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Film adaptation fails on screen

Adults are expected to act maturely, but this is certainly not the case in Roman Polanski’s new film “Carnage.”
After two school boys fight on a playground, the parents of the victim, Nancy and Alan Cowan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), and the parents of the bully, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly), meet in a New York City apartment to discuss the altercation. As their meeting continues, the tension rises between them, causing the couples to turn on each other — and eventually to turn on their spouses — resulting in full verbal warfare that uncovers the adults’ lack of civility.
The script for “Carnage” was based on the award-winning play “God of Carnage.” Though playwright Yazmina Reza also wrote the screenplay for the film, the whole scenario does not function properly in a cinematic medium. The descent from politeness to childish behavior is evident, but in this  case film is too subtle of a medium to allow the actors to fully portray their devolution.
That being said, “Carnage” is well-acted.
Polanski chose four strong actors, and their performances are the reason for the film’s high quality. Winslet and Foster were both Golden Globe nominees for their performances in “Carnage,” and the Boston Society of Film Critics recognized the four actors as Best Ensemble Cast.
The film’s attempt to successfully adapt a play that only stays in one location may have made sense in the theater but feels awkward and forced in the film. The savageness “Carnage” tries to highlight ultimately does not feel appropriate because the characters never truly get to that point.
The first funny moment of the film comes when Michael becomes hysterical about the entire situation. Perhaps this isn’t meant to be the first humorous moment, but for a film that advertised itself as a black comedy, it sets itself up to be compared to the likes of “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Moments that are intended to be funny, like when Winslet’s character projectile vomits all over the living room, become gross-out moments.
Although “Carnage” has a strong cast and succeeds technically, it lacks any real dramatic tension other than the conflicts between its characters. While film is a nice medium to highlight the cast’s talents, the story should have stayed on the stage.