For the next four days you can watch Carnage on iPlayer, Roman Polanski’s 2011 adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage. The film opens with an altercation between two kids, then moves into a New York apartment for the rest of the movie, where both sets of parents try to settle the incident, and a civilised meeting of grown-ups spirals out of control in the course of just over an hour.
It’s a smart little comedy/drama, all taking place in a single location, in real time, with both couples rapidly deteriorating in an irreverent satire of respectable middle-class family life. Couple number one is the talented John C. Reilly and the wonderful Jodie Foster, who steals the show in what I’m hoping is a successful audition for a Woody Allen movie. Couple number two is Kate Winslet, who overacts as usual, and Christoph Waltz, everyone’s second favourite Austrian actor. Waltz’s constant look of barely concealed contempt makes him the most sympathetic character, because the poor guy just wants to leave.
Unfortunately, so do we. These people are so horrible that it’s insufferable to spend even the short running time in their company. Of course that is the point, and the film does a great job of building up such a stifling, claustrophobic setting. The problem is that none of the characters are sufficiently fleshed out, as they would be in a Woody Allen movie. Neither is it particularly funny, falling back on cheap physical gags which undermine the film’s smart potential.
Carnage is a well-acted, well-made and well-paced satire about adults behaving like kids. But a lack of decent laughs and rounded characters just leaves us trapped in a room with a bunch of awful people.
Carnage is on iPlayer until 7 December.