Thursday, September 23, 2010

"God of Carnage" The Movie

News this heavy with starry wattage and awarded source material spreads quickly. I'm sure you've heard this morning that Kate Winslet & Matt Dillon will square off with Jodie Foster & Christopher Waltz as the combative couples of Yasmine Reza's hilarious and occasionally disturbing four-hander, God of Carnage. Make that Roman Polanski's God of Carnage, since he's bound to make adjustments in the adaptation. I fear that they'll add characters and scenes and lose the play's intense get-me-outta-here vibe... all in the name of "opening it up" as a movie. But perhaps I worry for nothing. Polanski has shown skill at non-literal claustrophic material in the past. In the play two sets of parents meet up cordially to discuss a school fight between their children and the way it breaks down, everyone basically breaks down. The play is entirely set in the living room of one of the couples and takes place in real time.

James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and Jeff Daniels
in Broadway's God of Carnage (2009)

Polanski is a reliable auteur and all four actors are strong but I still have to worry. It's my nature. I'm hoping that everyone involved understands first and foremost that it's a comedy. This type of material could easily fall apart if it loses its satiric edge and embraces the dramatic too willfully. If it does, people will just be like "ugh. these people are so immature. I hate them!" and you know how the public reacts to characters they don't like.

Pray for Jodie to pull this off!

The most intriguing casting choice has to be Jodie Foster, who I assume is taking on the Tony-winning Marcia Gay Harden role. I would haved loved to have seen Harden get this shot on the big screen but they rarely let people transfer... even Oscar winning people who aren't bankable. Anyway, Foster knows from claustrophic environs (Panic Room, Flight Plan, Silence of the Lambs) but she hasn't spent much time honing her comic gifts and this character is, at least in my experience of the play, the fulcrum point. She's full of abundant pretense and holier-than-thou speechifying and she'd be utterly detestable and annoying if she weren't also so funny and so endearingly a complete emotional wreck. It's just a killer role.

I'm glad the two time Oscar winner will be truly challenging herself for the first time in well over a decade but if you rest you rust and I hope she's up to the challenge.

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