2011 was not a particularly strong year for comedy, so thankfully one of the last great movies to be released in it turned out to be pure comic gold. Black gold, really.
The Cowans, Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) are visiting the New York City apartment of the Longstreets, Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly). These couples are not, however, old friends.
A few days earlier their children had gotten into an argument which led to Zachary Cowan hitting Ethan Longstreet in the face with a tree branch, costing Ethan two teeth. The intention is to discuss the situation as civil adults and decide how best to move forward for the sake of their kids. Things do not go as planned.
Directed by Roman Polanski (who co-wrote the screenplay with Yasmina Reza, who wrote the original play), "Carnage" spends all of its 79 minutes in the Longstreet home (with a moment or two out in the hallway). It examines the systematic breakdown of civility and how these four seemingly intelligent and evolved adults devolve into behavior more childish than that of their own children. Reza and Polanski examine all of this in the funniest way imaginable.
All four performances are stellar and it's wonderful fun to watch the shifts in mood and alliance. Two characters at each other's throats one moment bond the next at the drop of a hat. Reilly and Waltz are particularly funny, Reilly as the character that seems to change the most over the course of the film, while Waltz's Alan seems to have been the most honest from the beginning.
"Carnage" is sharp as a razor and often howlingly funny. It's one of the best films of last year and sadly the most overlooked, critically and commercially. 9/10.