Carnage

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CARNAGE—-director Roman Polanski isn’t known for comedy, having done just three; the 1967 cult spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers, the bloated 1986 fiasco Pirates and this 2011 bonbon with an acid center.

Mercifully short at 80 minutes, it’s lifted from a precocious (self-satisified?) play by Yasmina Reza entitled Le Dieu de Carnage/The God of Carnage.  The authoress (who won a Tony for the play) wrote the screenplay as well, with assist from Polanski.  Setbound and claustrophobic, it’s both wickedly funny and irritatingly smug as two well-off New York City couples argue over a playground incident involving their sons. Well, they start arguing about that, and proceed to fight about everything but oxygen. Haul out the Scotch—nothing calms bickering better than getting plastered.

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The short running time still seems too long, but credit four fine actors for putting their all into the spite (and barfing): Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz. Foster looks like she’s ready to self-combust.  Critics were divided, audiences seem to either be tickled pink or turned off.  It invites you to be complicit in mockery, so its pose as a ‘comedy for Smart People’ rests on resentment and pretense as much as razor insight.  An artistic draw, but not at the box-office: in that wheat v .chaff zone it rubbed a raw $27,500,000 against a cost of$25,000,000, guaranteeing nobody in studio accounting cubicles laughed on their end.

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