Follow TV Tropes


Film / Carnage (2011)

Go To

Carnage is a 2011 Black Comedy film by Roman Polański starring Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, based on the play God of Carnage by French playwright Yasmina Reza.

Two couples, Penelope and Michael (Foster & Reilly) and Alan and Nancy (Waltz & Winslet) have met to work out an incident. After an argument in a public park, Alan and Nancy's son Zachary hit Penelope and Michael's son Ethan in the face with a stick, causing the latter to lose two front teeth. Hoping to discuss it like reasonable people, Alan and Nancy have come to Penelope and Michael's place. While all four start out acting in an immaculately polite fashion, things quickly deteriorate to a state of total chaos involving vomit, booze and a mobile phone.

The film proper is set almost entirely in one New York apartment, except for two brief scenes at the beginning and end. There are only four actors in the whole film, with the exception of a few extras we see in the introduction and epilogue and some voices we hear over the phone. It is also notable for occurring almost in real time, save for the aforementioned bookends.

Not to be confused with the comic book character, although they both share a New York setting (and a taste for Black Comedy).

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Possibly unintentional, but this is not the first time we've seen Christoph Waltz in a long dark Gestapo-ish coat.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Since the film is set in a different country than the play, this was bound to happen. However, only Penelope (who was Véronique in the play) and the kids (Zachary/Ferdinand; Ethan/Bruno) play this trope straight; the other three main characters' names are literal traductions of their original French names.
  • All Periods Are PMS: Penelope quickly hides a package of tampons out of sight when she takes Alan into her apartment's bathroom. It can be assumed her emotional fragility is at least partially related to PMS.
  • Amoral Attorney: Alan, as quickly becomes clear from his many phone conversations.
  • Book Ends: The scenes in the park at the beginning and end.
  • Bottle Episode: With the exception of the brief first and last scenes in the park, the whole movie takes place in Penelope and Michael's apartment and the elevator hall in its building.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At the end of the film, the hamster is revealed to be alive, lost in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
    • The fight between the two kids turns into one of these when it's revealed that they managed to make up without any input from their parents whatsoever, thus rendering the whole thing completely pointless.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Penelope and Michael: red. Alan and Nancy: blue.
  • Comedic Sociopathy
  • The Comically Serious: Alan attempts to remain calm throughout all the absurdity.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Michael's mother happens to be taking the same exact pills whose possibly harmful side effects Alan, a lawyer to the pharmaceutical company that produces them, is discussing over the phone.
  • Cutting the Electronic Leash: Nancy throws Alan's mobile into a vase full of water after growing weary of his constant phone conversations. At the end of the film, it looks like the phone is about to be subjected to even worse mistreatment.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All four principle characters are snarkers to a degree, but Alan has the deadpan side down.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Sort of. Penelope eventually gets fed up and starts pounding Michael's back, but it isn't taken too seriously. However, it should be noted that the lack of reaction to it seemed less to do with gender, and more to do with the fact that (A) he was being really annoying, and (B) he is much bigger and more solidly built than her, and didn't seem to be in any pain from it.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Doodle; Darjeeling.
  • Enemy Mine: One of the main points of the film is the constantly shifting alliances between the four, even though none of them really like each other that much.
  • Everyone Has Standards
    • Nancy is married to an amoral attorney who will calmly discuss severe problems happening to humans over the phone, yet she is absolutely disgusted to find out that Michael abandoned his hamster on the street.
    • Despite not wanting them to come over, once he has been forced to accept that he can't avoid it, Michael goes out of his way to make them feel welcome because "Guests are guests".
  • The Film of the Play: A faithful adaptation of the 2006 play God of Carnage.
  • Freak Out:
    • The most spectacular one has got to be Alan after his wife kills his all-important phone.
    • Nancy's reaction to Penelope throwing her handbag across the room is pretty extreme.
  • Hypocrite: All of them on some matter or other.
    • Hypocritical Humor: Lots, but Nancy's distraught Freak Out to having her handbag thrown across the room even after destroying her husband's cell phone while mocking his Freak Out about it stands out.
  • In Vino Veritas: Once the characters start to get drunk, the sorry state of their relationships is quickly revealed.
  • Jerkass: Alan is quite transparently this right from the start, but all four of them reveal varying levels of this when certain buttons get pushed.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Michael starts off seeming quite nice, but even before this persona has really cracked, he reveals that he abandoned his hamster on the street.
    • Much of the reason why the situation deteriorates so much is because none of them can resist making snide, petty remarks on various matters that will inevitably cause offense.
  • Lady Drunk: Two of them, eventually. The two men also drink, but not as heavily.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Nancy mocks Alan for being so distraught after she has killed his mobile phone. Not long after, a similar incident leaves Nancy equally distraught.
  • Minimalism: Four characters, one setting, Real Time.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only four actors.
  • No Ending
  • One Head Taller: Michael and Penelope.
  • Only Sane Man: Michael and Nancy seem to fill this role in the first half of the film. Both are soon revealed to be more than they seem.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Oh, so much. At least until the "passive" goes completely out the window.
  • Predatory Big Pharma: Alan is an Amoral Attorney who believes that there's no such thing as altruistic behavior and works for a pharmaceutical company. Over the night, he's working on an apparent scandal related to a medication with fatal side effects, which Michel's mother is taking.
  • Real Time: Besides the opening and closing shots, the movie takes place in real time.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Mild version. Michael did not want Alan and Nancy to come over, but nonetheless made a real effort to make them welcome, and lasts for quite a long time before losing it.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The two kids are playing together at the end of the film, making the whole meeting between the families utterly pointless, except to illustrate how childish and prideful the supposedly "mature" adults can be while their children are just fine with the way things transpired.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The conflict in the movie comes largely from the four characters having different positions on this scale, with Alan being the most cynical and Penelope the most idealistic. Neither the idealistic nor the cynical viewpoint is shown to be the right one; rather, the script ridicules both sides of the argument.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: More like "the adaptation confirms the hamster's survival".
  • Stepford Smiler: Everyone.
  • The Stoic: Alan in general remains straight-faced throughout most of the conversation.
    • Not So Stoic: ...Until of course, his cell phone is destroyed.
  • Strawman Political: Sort of: usually with this trope, a political view is oversimplified for the sole purpose of discrediting it, and thus making the alternative more credible. All four of them have opposing views that are shown to be severely flawed in some way (and thus might be considered discredited), but since none of them are ultimately suggested to be right, the usual purpose behind a Strawman Political is averted.
  • Straw Misogynist: Both Alan and Michael have some very sexist views, that clearly paint them in an even more negative light. It should be noted that the women are not presented as being much better, so it's more a case of everyone being wrong.
  • Straw Nihilist: Alan is an unashamed nihilist.
    • Once he gets drunk, Michael gives Penelope a lecture on the hypocrisy of her liberal sensibilities.
  • Title Drop: The play on which it is based is called "The God of Carnage", which Alan references by name when discussing his open nihilism.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Not quite, but Alan gets pretty close to one (see Villainous BSoD below).
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: All four, to a greater or lesser degree.
  • The Voice: Michael's mother; Walter and Dennis (Alan's conversation partners).
  • Villainous BSoD: It's debatable whether he can be called a villain, (though he sure as hell can't be called "heroic"), but after his initial reaction, Alan collapses onto the floor and doesn't take part in the conversation for a while. Unusually for this trope, when he does eventually start talking again, he is actually much calmer than before.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Nancy graphically throwing up over the coffee table serves as a major turning point in the film.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Michael apparently has a crippling fear of rodents.

Alternative Title(s): Carnage