Carnage

Fri, Feb 3, 2012, 00:00

Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C Reilly 15A cert, general release, 78 min

REGULAR readers of the more grown-up sections of this newspaper may recall Fintan O’Toole’s evaluation of God of Carnage(“among the crassest pieces of theatre I have ever seen”) when Yasmina Reza’s play opened at the Gate Theatre last year.

Well at least the stage version had live vomiting. Roman Polanski’s filmed Carnagehas nothing so eventful as theatrical puke to recommend it. If last week’s semen tears movie (the atrocious House of Tolerance) failed to inspire “oohs” and “aahs”, then what hope for the humble, easy-to-fake cinematic boke?

Sadly, purge Carnageof the live purge, and there’s not much left to recommend the material. Two couples – snobs Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet and Boho parents John C Reilly and Jodie Foster – meet up to discuss a recent playground tussle between their respective little darlings.There follows much chewy dialogue, the kind actors like to showboat with and makes the rest of us think of William Shatner reciting Lady Gaga lyrics in cod-Shakespearean.

Then Carnagedrops a bombshell: you can’t say petit bourgeois without petty. Who knew these middle-class types are – wait for it – not as civilised as they first appear? While they bicker and play out class anxieties, the screenplay reminds us there are larger conflicts, such as the one in Darfur. How insightful.

Polanski’s camera makes for wide-angle weasly fun, and Waltz maintains a wicked twinkle in his eye, but no amount of devilment could atone for the facile sentiments. Many punters at a recent London screening turned, confused, toward the projection booth when the film came screeching to a halt two acts in. Carnagehas no place to go.

Winslet 2.0 (the Hollywood edition) isn’t any more plausible as an American than Classic Bangers’n’Mash Winslet once was. For all the thesp prowess and star wattage on view, there’s no believing that these people could be married in any combination in this or any other dimension.

Where exactly is Mr Polanski living these days?