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“Carnage,” reviewed

“Carnage,” reviewed (photo)

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 New York Film Festival.

Nobody makes a trapped-in-a-house-slowly-going-insane movie quite like Roman Polanski. You’ve got “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Tenant,” “The Ghost Writer,” and now “Carnage,” the first out-and-out comedy of the bunch. The film, based on the Tony Award-winning play by Yasmina Reza, is sort of Polanski’s version of Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel:” one Brooklyn couple comes to another Brooklyn couple’s apartment to resolve a squabble between their two children. Though the matter is seemingly cleared up minutes into the film, the visiting couple can’t quite leave; every time they make a move for the door some other petty disagreement, or offer of cobbler, or inability to schedule a return visit with kids in tow pulls them back in. They’re trapped by good manners and bad conversation, and the camera and the audience is trapped right along with them. After the opening credits, set in a park overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the movie never leaves that apartment. “Carnage” is not a film for claustrophobes.

However, “Carnage” is a movie for film lovers looking for a cinematic experience that mimics the sensation of claustrophobia. As spacious and inviting as the home of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) looks on first glance, once Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) almost leave, then almost leave again and again, the apartment begins to take on sinisterly cramped dimensions. Watch how often Polanski frames shots to put the apartment’s front door in the background of the action. So close yet so far.

The atmosphere may be awkward, but the mood is playful, almost jubilant. Polanski’s own son plays one of the two boys involved in the inciting altercation, and I imagine the movie is full of observations drawn from the director’s own frustrating altercations with his children’s friends’ parents. The insipid conversations, the feigned curiosity, the strained attempts at compromise; they’re all here. Polanski’s getting his revenge, and he’s having a wicked good time of it.

The actors looks like they’re having a lot of fun as well. I expected greatness from Winslet, Foster, and Reilly and got it, but was very pleasantly surprised that Waltz, despite a wonky American accent, outshone them all in the meaty role of Alan, the power-brokering lawyer who can’t stay off his cell phone. Alan is the first of our quartet to abandon the pretense of politeness and the funniest of the bunch, though Winslet does make her character’s digestive suffering surprisingly comic as well.

“Carnage” is not a groundbreaking film by any stretch of the imagination, and plenty of audiences will complain that it didn’t “open up” Reza’s play in any way. For Polanski, though, keeping the play stiflingly closed off was surely the point. For decades, this man has made horror films about the terror of feeling isolated and confined to an apartment. This time he’s made a hilarious movie about the one thing that’s worse: being isolated and confined to an apartment with other people.

“Carnage” opens today in limited release. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.