By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Picture yourself in a small apartment in Brooklyn, one where
you could look out the window and see Manhattan. Then picture yourself watching
the action in the tiny apartment unfold on stage.
Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christof Waltz) Cowan are
visiting Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Rielly) Longstreet in
that small apartment. The sons of these two sets of parents have had a
fight. The parents are agreeing that the
Cowen boy was the aggressor who hit the other boy and knocked out two teeth.
The middle class Longstreets are trying to be very civil and
polite. Penelope is the moral voice of the film that continually struggles for
higher ground; she is writing a book about Dafur because she cares so much. The
upper crust Cowans, especially Alan, continually takes calls on his mobile
phone during the conversation, irritating everyone. The Cowans try to leave two
or three times but end up being drawn back into the spider’s web when they
couples disagree about right and wrong between their children, Alan’s unethical
tactics as a pharmaceutical executive, and Michael getting rid of bothersome a
pet by letting it go on the street where it could be killed.
I suppose a case could be made for humor at some level for
the carnage left after these grown-ups duke it out with words, and the
existential carnage they spew on the universe by their conflicting worldviews.
But a better case might be made for the influence of Jean-Paul Sarte’s existential tome “Nausea” on the French
writer Yasmina Reza who wrote the original play “The Gods of Carnage” and
co-wrote the screenplay. Indeed, when Nancy throws up all over Penelope’s fine
coffee table books about art, their battlefield over meaning is completely
leveled by covering beauty with vomit.
This is a dark comedy set in a stuffy hell created by these
parents who don’t really know who they are.
The film had to be made in Paris because of director Roman
Polanski’s ongoing trouble with the law in the United States. The acting is
taut and fine by all the actors but some plays are better
left to the theater.
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