The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

I had more in common with those people than I want to admit

with 27 comments

Is it funny to see someone throwing up on a screen? Many people think so. I usually don’t.

I’m more into verbal humor than physical. Surely I can laugh at puking when it reaches an absurd level. Monty Python’s restaurant scene in The Meaning of Life remains one of my favorites. But on the whole I fail to see the fun in pee, poo or penis jokes. On the other hand, give me a quick and witty conversation, dialogues dripping with self loathing irony or poisonous sarcasm and you’ve got me.

Roman Polanski’s Carnage actually has both of it, which surprised me quite a bit. Who thought of Polanski as a comedy maker? I may have missed out something, but I certainly didn’t.

The wordsmith humor in this film consists of the battle between two couples, the parents to two boys who have been into a fight, one beating the other. The entire film is about how they seemingly try to settle the issue, while they in reality get into a rapidly escalating verbal fight in various constellations, not only between the two families, but also within them. Alliances come and go throughout the film.

But it’s not the fighting that I’m going to take with me from this film. It’s the puking. There was something immensely satisfying about watching Kate Winslet, as this annoying upper class woman, all of a sudden empty her stomach over a bunch of precious art books belonging to the “enemy” couple. It was as if it released a lot of my own reactions to all the unconstructive, passive-aggressive blame-gaming bullshit that had been going on in the conversations for a while. Sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need to throw up. It made me laugh out loud.

A small film
This is by no means a great film. In fact it’s very small, in several ways. The cast is small, consisting of four actors with a few telephone voices and statists giving a picture of how the fight went. The location is small; it all takes place within the walls of an apartment and in the few meters between the entrance door and the elevator. And the format is very small with a running time of 80 minutes, which probably includes the text credits.

I would actually say that the smallness of the film is one the best things about it Sometimes you don’t have time to spend your entire night watching a 2,5 hour long mega sized movie. Carnage is a movie for those occasions. And I’ve never had anything against movies that only take place in one room, movies that are based on a play and don’t make a secret of it. On the contrary, I tend to like them.

Perhaps it was expected that I got to think of another movie about two couples in a fight: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In comparison Carnage comes out as pale, lightweight and forgettable. There are no ideas that stick with me; the performances are fine but not unforgettable like the Taylor/Burton combo. Frankly I see no reason to revisit this film anytime soon.

But you know what? I’m fine with that. Not all movies need to be future classics to be worth our time and money. Sometimes it’s enough to get a few good laughs as you watch someone mercilessly mocking people you have more in common with than you want to admit.

Carnage was to me like a piece of dark chocolate with added sea salt: it’s not a full meal, but it’s a piece of snack that is interesting enough to be enjoyable even in small quantities.

Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Carnage

27 Responses

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  1. Great review Jessica. I rated this with a 4 also. Here’s a shameless plug

    Mark Walker

    June 20, 2012 at 1:43 am

    • Thanks Mark. And feel free to plug away! I loved your write-up!


      June 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

  2. I had low expectations for this film but I ended up walking out of the theater laughing because it was so absurd. I ended up loving it as I think it’s one of Polanski’s best works. After this and The Ghost Writer, it looks like he’s been re-energized and having fun all over again. Last year, he, Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorsese, and Terrence Malick are filmmakers I consider to be part of the old-school. Yet, they are making films that not only live up to their great work in the past but seem to the excitement of a young filmmaker.

    Steven Flores

    June 20, 2012 at 4:08 am

    • That is so true! It appears to me as if Ghost Writer isn’t widely popular among film bloggers, but I remember really liking it.

      Polanski certainly keeps going. Maybe the diversity helps a bit. Thriller one day, comedy the next. Keeps it fresh.


      June 20, 2012 at 7:49 am

  3. You know, you’re right. It is lightweight and forgettable. In a way. It didn’t really stay with me either outside the theater except that I knew it made me laugh really, really hard. I thought of it as a straight comedy despite the material. I’ve actually seen it 3 times already just because it entertains me so much as it’s happening. (And the throw-up made me laugh too. No one can throw up quite like that Kate Winslet.)


    June 20, 2012 at 4:13 am

    • Three times! It’s wonderful to hear you had as fun when you rewatched it! I’ve seen some negative reviews about it, from critics I tend to agree with. But humor is such a personal thing. All I know is that it worked for me this time.


      June 20, 2012 at 7:55 am

  4. I didn’t like it much myself, although the performances were good. It just felt unrealistic as these couples would have never spent that much time together in real life, it felt artificial.


    June 20, 2012 at 8:42 am

    • I agree that it’s articficial, but aren’t all those kind of plays? They’re condenced and people speak in a way they wouldn’t in real life. Happens in Woody Allen’s N.Y. academic class films as well – I still enjoy them a lot, agreeing to suspending my disbelief.

      But let’s agree we disagree on this one. 🙂


      June 20, 2012 at 9:19 am

  5. I must admit I loved this film. I saw it last year at a festival and with a packed cinema all a bit typsy on wine and free booze it was hilarious. I have met all these people in my life. Living in lower middle class suburbia and having to mix with our girls parents you cannot avoid them.

    Foster was the driving force of the film for me. She was amaze. But the cast and witty script was great. OK it felt like a ply, but I liked that.


    And I disagree with Nostra, I have had to spend time with other parents like that… it is hard to get away

    • Oh yes, those parents you have to cooperate with…. It can be a trial. In periods I’ve had my kids at preschools and schools run by the parents, so I’ve had my share of it.

      I regret not seeing this in a theatre. I guess I listened too much to Kermode giving it a bad review (as did some others). It turned out I had a different opinion.


      June 20, 2012 at 9:48 am

  6. Small yes. Interestingly, I think the flaw (if I can call it that) of the film, especially in comparison to WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF is that its ideas and themes loom more important than its characters, so I might remember the theme of CARNAGE before I remember Penelope and the others, but that’s a flaw of the play itself and CARNAGE really works for me. Small and not significantly indelible to life, but Polanski does so much to make it cinematic and it all lands well for me – the comedy, the faux-drama, the way it holds up our finicky stupidity and makes us watch (and laugh, and cringe) at it.

    (And yup, the vomit….Imagine that Hope Davis had to do that on stage every night when it was on Broadway.)

    Andrew K.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    • Vomiting on the scene night after night? I never thought of that. It sounds exhausting. But I guess they have their magic trics. 🙂
      Glad you too enjoyed the film so much!


      June 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    • I saw Hope Davis vomit in real life and it was awesome!

      What captivated me about this post is the title. I can’t wait for you to review American television. There are a lot of asshole characters there but for some reason, I can’t look away.


      June 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

      • Wow, I’m glad the title captured you. Actually I often struggle with the titles of my posts; I think they end up lame. But I refuse to put the film title as my own title. It’s just a fix idea I have.


        June 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

        • Yeah, it’s a trap I fell into in my posts recently. And I was only doing just reviews.


          June 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm

  7. Really liked the movie, though I found the ending to be a bit disappointing – it kept building up and in the end it ended so abruptly. Everyone one in the cast did terrific job, though, especially Christoph Waltz who was absolutely hilarious.


    June 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    • The end was a bit abrupt, I agree on that. It was a bit of a “wtf?, what did I miss here?” moment.


      June 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

  8. “Carnage was to me like a piece of dark chocolate with added sea salt.” I love that line and I totally concur. It’s not a nutritious meal, but it is pretty tasty while it lasts.

    Mark Hobin

    June 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    • Thanks! I’m glad it made sense! Nice to see a new face here btw, you’re very welcome!


      June 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  9. Excellent review, Jessica! I definitely agree. The Winslet vomit scene was so funny in the context of this movie! I didn’t enjoy the film as I wanted to but it was quick and fun.


    June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    • Thanks Fernando! Glad you could at least enjoy that part of it 🙂


      June 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      • I think my expectations were too high. I didn’t like Foster’s performance and, for me, the situations grew increasingly unrealistic and exaggerated as the film progressed. By the end, I was bored, frankly.


        June 22, 2012 at 6:17 am

  10. I really enjoyed this movie. I love to see clever people having witty discussions. And this movie is really just that.

    The stereotyping was a lot of fun too. If it were up to the men, they’d just shake hands, give a fake apology and sit in the sofa, drinking some beers and watching the sport channel. But for the women, that just won’t do it, they have to scratch out each others eyes.

    As for 2.5 hour movie recommendations. See Hoop Dreams if you haven’t already seen it.


    June 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    • Discussion movies are the best. There’s a reason why I’m such a Woody Allen fan! I haven’t seen Hoop Dreams, so I will remember that. You and I tend to agree a lot.


      June 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  11. I’m not quite sure where I fall on this film. There’s a lot I like but I’m not sure if it all sticks. However, I’m leaning towards liking it because there is that wry sense of humor that make this movie engaging for me. Still, I wasn’t won over by all the performances.

    • The humor is what makes it for me. I actually liked the performances, especially the women I think.


      June 28, 2012 at 10:32 am

  12. […] Carnage People throwing up on the screen is rarely fun to watch, but seeing Kate Winslet doing it over a bunch of exclusive art catalogues was priceless. […]

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