Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Roman Polanski is capable of making some pretty impressive, epic level masterpieces (Tess, The Pianist), but is equally adept when it comes time to scale it down and tighten the screws. In this case it is a film adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play Le Dieu Du Carnage, a four-character ensemble piece about two couples who meet on a pleasant New York afternoon to talk about an unpleasant situation: the child of one couple (Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz) brutally struck the child of another couple (Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly) with a stick and knocked out two of his teeth. They begin their meeting with a very dignified and grown-up negotiation that soon spirals out of control when they decide to sit down and have some coffee and dessert; it is not long before personal grievances, insecurities and frustrations are aired, their feelings about the conflict that brought them together going from rising-it-above-it-all maturity to a dragged-out, they-started-it childish mess. The film’s conclusion, abrupt and shocking as it is, provides the ultimate punch line to this allegorical, modern-day Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a microcosmic statement about political conflict in a world where people are far too busy being wrapped up in their own sense of righteous indignation to actually put aside differences and be at peace with one another. Smart symbolism aside, it also shows Polanski at his best as an actor’s director, bringing out perfect work from all four cast members, with Foster and Winslet standing out in the more dynamic roles as the alternatively gracious and uptight wives who are trying to find the balance between their wisdom as educated women and their vulnerabilities as mothers.
Cinematography by Pawel Edelman.
Produced by Said Ben Said.
Music by Alexandre Desplat.
Production Design by Dean Tavoularis.
Costume Design by Milena Canonero.
Film Editing by Herve de Luze.