Two 11 year olds get into a fight, one hits the other with a tree branch causing him to lose two teeth. This was nothing more than a simple skirmish between two young children; the events that follow after though involving their parents is an entirely different beast. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael Longstreet, the parents of Ethan, the child who was hit with the tree branch. On the outside they seem like two average people living their simple life in Brooklyn, NY. Penelope is a “writer” and Michael is a home furnisher salesman, if you’re looking for a light fixture, door knob or flush handle he’s your man. On the other side are Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as Nancy and Alan Cowan, parents to Zachary, Nancy is a investment banker and Alan a lawyer.
The entire film takes place in the Longstreet’s apartment as the two couples try to smooth out their children’s situation. The film which was adapted from a play entitled “Le Dieu du carnage” was written by Yasmina Reza, who along with Roman Polanski co-wrote the screenplay. The center of the story would be how these couples act even more childish than their children. The Longstreet’s try to play the normal, conservative family but we soon come to realize that Penelope is an ultra P.C, know-it-all, yuppie who feels she can tell other people how to raise their children. Michael is a quiet, subservient husband who goes with the flow; that’s until we find out it’s just an act and inside he’s a miserable wreck who pretty much hates everything or as he puts it “You’re born alone then you die alone”. Nancy is playing off the whole encounter as a one and done while Alan, when he isn’t talking with colleagues on his blackberry, can really give a shit about the whole situation.
The bickering revolves around getting the final word in. The Cowen’s leave the apartment three times only to be roped back in by the Longstreet’s to not disturb the neighbors, or in hindsight give them something to gossip about. Penelope is obsessed with throwing out small jabs as to how Zachary should act and how he should feel about “disfiguring” a fellow classmate. Nancy can’t stand her side of the story and knows she is being talked down to about her child which in response only makes her point to the finger at Ethan and his actions in the altercation. Among all this back and forth between the wives is the same time that Michael and Alan bond with each other over a glass of scotch, aged 18 years. As soon as the wives see that their response naturally is “Why can’t the women drink?”
Now we have four grown adults sloshed on expensive scotch who were first discussing their children’s problems now talking about their own marriages and life dilemmas. Penelope can’t stand Michael’s negative outlook, Michael can’t stand Penelope’s high & mighty frame of mind, Nancy hates Allan’s throw away attitude about their marriage & child, and Allan can’t stand….well pretty much anything because he’s too involved with his job. Actually Alan seems to be the only one comfortable in the whole situation because as he mentions to Penelope early in the film, he embraces the idea of “God of Carnage” the way God treats/handles miserable human beings. Nothing seems to derail these four at all of their petty arguments, that is until Nancy projectile vomits all over the Longstreet’s coffee table; even that though did nothing but give a small recess to their bickering.
Watching this film I’ve never felt so uncomfortable and laughed so hard at the same time. As soon as one makes a remark then it just begins an unholy tennis match of insults and barbs at each others life styles and ways of thinking. All four actors were great in their performances and the film flows so smooth that when the end credits hit I thought only an hour or less had passed.
4 out of 5