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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In some ways, the film is sort of depressing, with the couples airing their dirty laundry and parenting woes. But there is a cautionary message about the dangers of parents channeling their own issues through their children's lives.
Positive Role Models
At times, all of the characters are insufferable and disingenuous, but they're also all quite human and are trying to make their way. They're ostensibly meeting out of concern for their kids, and you get the feeling that that's definitely true, though other agendas, known and unknown, rear their heads.
Violence & Scariness
Some yelling among the four main characters and frank discussions about bullying. One couple's child hit the other's with a tree branch, injuring him, but the incident isn't shown.
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Relatively infrequent swearing, but words include "f--k," "bitch," "damn," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The two couples progressively get plastered during the afternoon they spend discussing their sons' quarrel.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Jodie Foster/Kate Winslet dramedy based on the play God of Carnage and directed by controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski starts with a simple enough premise: Two couples get together to discuss why one pair's child hit another at the playground. But the movie is actually an intense examination of how the couples' "civil" conversation gets derailed and becomes a squabble. The subject matter and tone aren't likely to interest tweens or younger teens (though there's definitely loads to think about), but older teens might actually find it an interesting film to dissect with their parents, as it looks at issues of personal responsibility, parenting styles, and the like. The main iffy content is swearing (including "f--k") and drinking (the couples get pretty drunk as the afternoon wears on). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
We get to see four fine actors do what they do best here, and that may be this film's biggest offering. You can imagine that CARNAGE, in its original, Tony-winning stage version, would be thrilling to watch -- so quick is the patter, so witty the banter, so sharp the material. And all that's definitely still here. The film is incisive, breathtakingly well-acted (Foster is at her brittle, earnest best), and uproarious in many parts.
But well within the first half-hour, it feels limited by its setting: a living room in Brooklyn. It's so clearly a play that you can't help but be distracted by the staginess. Viewers who didn't know it was a play first will probably be particularly perplexed about why we're stuck in this one apartment; the only reprieve (and it truly feels like one) is when the couples briefly go out into the hallway. The dialogue is also sometimes a giveaway; it's expository, and everyone talks a lot.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.