MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet
Jesus once said: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42 NRSV)
Carnage, based on the Tony Award winning play “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, is perhaps the best depiction of this wisdom saying that I have ever seen. The film tells what seems like a simple story: An 11 year-old boy hits another boy in the face with a stick, which requires a trip to the hospital. Rather than work through the private school that both boys attend, or press legal charges, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and John C. Reilly), the parents of the victim, invite Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Christoph Waltz) over to their apartment to talk things out.
The discussion begins with great respect between the parents. After all, they are well-educated and affluent people who know that boys will be boys. A flower arrangement was ordered to make the apartment look nice. Cobbler and coffee are served. They both have good health insurance and the means to take care of any other expenses incurred. Smiles and laughter are all around. But there is one basic problem: This meeting will not end peacefully; the god of carnage lurks behind the surface.
The material is so well written; I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that the four participants include a politically correct liberal, a good-natured pleaser, a self-assured socialite, and a business-focused professional. There are times when the men group together and times when the women take sides. Both couples will find their own marriages tested. And the events spiral downward in unexpected and hilarious ways.
Even though Carnage is often very funny, this is a black comedy and, in a sense, the Longstreet’s apartment becomes a type of hell in which it seems no one will ever leave.
Director Polanski does a nice job adapting the stage play to the screen and, in his prelude and coda to the film (both which take place in the schoolyard), he adds a nice touch of irony at the end.
If you can handle a bit of rough language, this is one of the better films of last year, with four great performances from the actors and a script that gives them all something to do. Carnage reminded me of how fragile the human condition can be, and how closely our emotions can guide us into doing something we might later regret. It is a very short film, clocking in at just 79 minutes, including the end credits. It is well worth an hour of your time; you may spend more than an hour thinking and talking about it.
Three halos: A thought provoking and sharply humorous drama about how thin the layer of civility can get.
Two pitchforks: For pervasive swearing and some violent outbursts.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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