Carnage: people like you make me sick

Age and scandal has not prevented veteran director Roman Polanski from continuing his series of blackly comic films about people going mad in claustrophobic apartments (see Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, Bitter Moon and The Pianist). The latest installment is the comparatively lightweight Carnage, adapted by Polanski and Yasmina Reza from Reza’s play of the same name and starring Academy favourites Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz as a pair of brittle and self-absorbed couples who contrive to rub each other fairly spectacularly when they meet to discuss and resolve a minor flare-up between their respective eleven year old sons. This is as stagy a film as you’re likely to see this year – the action takes place in real-time almost entirely within one room, and although it has an admirably short running time of 79 minutes it s script must contain more dialogue than most films of twice that length. Polanski loves to create and exploit tension, and Carnage sets the audience on edge right from the start with Foster and Winslet’s patently insincere middle-class reassurances to each other, Reilly’s blithe platitudes and Waltz’s callous disinterest, and although you can tell roughly where it’s all going there are a couple of shock moments that had the audience at my screening gasping. While it’s undoubtedly all good, squirmy fun, and a tremendous workout for the cast to boot, the film does also feel a bit inconsequential and lacking a killer punchline and you wonder whether Polanski felt constrained by issues of taste and decency given recent and not-so-recent events in his life. Carnage is a great title, but this film seems more like a pillow fight.

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