Monday, December 19, 2011

Film Review: Carnage

Why do people enjoy uncomfortable, situations where people argue, whine and and embarrass themselves?  How many times can puke be funny?  When is it ever funny?

Carnage is the product of Roman Polanski, whom (I'm told) likes to explore feelings of claustrophobia.  I've only seen a few Polanski films, but not enough to know of this beforehand.

From the outset Carnage gives us the following scenario:  Two 11-year-old kids have an argument in the playground, one strikes the other with a branch and knocks the boy's teeth out.  Soon the parents get involved and meet at the wounded child's home to work things out.

Right from the start I knew this was a bad idea, especially seeing how uptight all four parents were.  The air was so thick I could see it.

After the four parents seemingly agreed to make amends and resolve the issue, the parents of the branch-wielding boy (played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) said their awkward goodbyes and headed for the elevator.  They went out into the hallway, pushed the button and were about to get on, when they were offered coffee and dessert by the victim's parents (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) with forced smiles.

And they said yes.

Why?

It's obvious from the outset how inexperienced these parents are.  Penelope (Jodie Foster) is so obviously seething about her wounded child (beneath her fake smile), that anyone with half-a-brain would have noticed it and fled at the first opportunity, knowing full well that one cannot reason with an upset mother whose child had been "mamed" by another boy. Why turn around and go back inside an apartment where the tension is so palpable?  Why prolong the agony?  Was it because the parents felt it was for the good of the kids that they get along?

What's worse is none of these people are likeable.  If the characters were better actors (not the actors themselves but the characters) and did a better job of hiding their emotions, then maybe their inevitable breakdown would have been funnier.

As the film goes on these very unlikable people become less so as the movie progresses.  Soon they're behaving like children. What sets them off is what seems to be the highlight of the film.  Nancy (Kate Winslet) projectile vomits all over Penelope's rare art book collection.  Cue the audience laughter from the first puke through the cleanup and on from there.

In a theater full of people, I was one of the very few who didn't laugh.  And that's not the first time.  So as I sat glancing around at my fellow moviegoers as they doubled over at the puking and its aftermath, I wondered, "What is it I'm not getting?  What am I missing?"

The film is based on the play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza.  I recall seeing the ads and the posters for it when it was on Broadway and never having a desire to see it.  I'm so glad I didn't, although someone informed me that it worked much better on the stage.  Perhaps the stage version had characters that started out much more likeable.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: My Piece of the Pie (Ma Part du Gateau)

If you want to see this film, which I recommend highly, then I suggest you do not read any summaries.  I didn't before I saw it, but after I did and I think had I read the plot I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

Not that there's anything wrong with the plot.  On the contrary, it's well written and performed.  The issue is how much predictability do you like to observe when watching a film.  This movie is unpredictable.  I had no idea how it was going to wind up, and that's the fun of it.  Reading a plot summary could possibly give too much away without intending to.  So avoid the summary and see this film.

I will say this - just to give you an idea of what type of movie it is - it's an amusing, heartwarming and funny character study.

And that's all I'll say....

Oh, yes.  I almost forgot.  It's a French film with a few scenes in English, because they take place in London.

That's it.