A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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).
Carnage shows a very real slice of life where kids are usually told to "leave the room while we fight about you".
What's the story?
Husband and wife Michael (John C. Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster) have invited over another couple, Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet), to discuss a most unfortunate incident: Alan and Nancy's son hit Michael and Penelope's son with a stick at a Brooklyn playground, injuring him. At first it everything seems to go well; everyone's civil and on their best behavior. But soon the meeting devolves into an airing of recriminations and regrets -- not just about what happened, but of marriage, parenting, and life in general.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays parenting. Are the characters good parents? How do they compare to other parents you've seen in the movies/on TV?
Are either or both sets of parents hovering too much over their kids? Or are they the opposite? Is either style better than the other?
Can you tell that this movie was based on a play? Do plays generally translate well to the big screen? Why or why not?
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