Thursday, September 1, 2011

Venice Review Round-Up: "Carnage"

Though it is among my most anticipated for the rest of year, I'm still on the fence about Roman Polanski's Carnage. Adapted from Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play, the director's latest features an excellent cast (Waltz, Foster, Winslet, Reilly) in a situation that seems rife with possibility for juicy drama and dark comedy. The only problem is that all released info and footage so far has done little to calm my fears about one key aspect: the source material. As I'll probably end up saying every time I discuss Carnage, I was no fan of the stage show, which felt like it thought it was smarter, funnier, and more insightful than it actually was. I was counting on Polanski and his excellent cast to find something in the material that would make it work better. Judging from the first few reviews, I'm still stuck on the damn fence:

InContention - Guy Lodge (2.5/4 stars): "...the film....doesn't give [the subject matter] much resonance beyond the universal fun factor of milquetoasts behaving badly." "Foster is given the play's most garlanded role, and enjoys herself most when the character at last self-immolates." "The men, perhaps surprisingly, fare better."

The Guardian - Xan Brooks (4/5 stars): "...a pitch black farce of unbearable tension." "[Polanski's] direction is precise, unfussy, and utterly fit for purpose..." "It does turn a shade too the final stretch..."

IndieWire - Oliver Lyttelton (C+): "'s pleasurable enough, although anyone hoping for a return to 1970s form for Polanski will be disappointed..." "For this writer, it's Jodie Foster who was the highlight." " best Reza's material is targeting some fairly low-hanging fruit (upper-middle class hypocrisy, in the main) without adding much to the discussion..."

The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy (N/A): "Snappy, nasty, deftly acted...Carnage fully delivers the laughs and savagery of the stage piece..." "Polanski too often abandons group compositions in favor of close-ups..."

Variety - Justin Chang (N/A): "...never shakes off a mannered, hermetic feel that consistently betrays [the film's] theatrical origins."

Venice Verdict: Though it has moments that work, Polanski's adaptation of Yasmina Reza's play is a minor, and flawed, pleasure. Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz emerge on top, even though the film around them fails to say much that hasn't been said before.

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