The Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttleton, whose show-’em-no-mercy review of The Ides of March was posted yesterday, has stuck a knife into Carnage, Roman Polanski‘s adaptation of Yasmina Reza‘s hit play which premiered earlier today at the Venice Film Festival.
Carnage is “a film of very little ambition, a minor entry in the director’s canon. Perhaps it was just the desire to shoot something fast and quick after his brush with Swiss justice, which is certainly understandable, but he has essentially taken a pre-existing script, cast four A-listers, locked them in a room, and shot it.
“There are few directorial flourishes beyond a firmly Polanski-esque opening shot, and almost nothing to enable the identification of the movie as a Polanski picture. For once in his career, it feels like almost anyone could have directed it.
“It’s not as though the play could have been opened up much, but Polanski really might as well have stuck some cameras in the audience of a stage production. Maybe that approach would have been fine for a more substantial piece, but at best Reza’s material is targeting some fairly low-hanging fruit (upper middle-class hypocrisy, in the main) without adding much to the discussion, and at worst it’s not about much more than the set-up for the next gag.
“And that’s even ignoring the major issue with the construction of Reza’s piece — there’s no reason for the characters to stay in the room together, except that the writer decides they should.”
“The gloves come off early and the social graces disintegrate on cue,” writes Variety‘s Justin Chang, as the film “spends 79 minutes observing, and encouraging, the steady erosion of niceties between two married couples. But the real battle in Roman Polanski’s brisk, fitfully amusing adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s popular play is a more formal clash between stage minimalism and screen naturalism, as this acid-drenched four-hander never shakes off a mannered, hermetic feel that consistently betrays its theatrical origins.
“One is continually made aware of buttons being pushed, of the actors taking pains to say precisely the wrong (or right) thing to fan the flames, yet the film actually becomes less tense as it progresses. Certain repeated questions — ‘Why are we still here?’ and ‘Should we wrap this up?’ — begin to take on unwelcome meanings, despite the compact running time.”