Rated 4.0

In Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage, two pairs of parents (Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) gather in a posh Brooklyn apartment to come to terms over a playground scuffle between their boys. But instead and inevitably, ostensibly adult negotiations spiral into a blackly comedic vortex of alcohol, accusation and abraded political pieties—the Polanskian conceit that civilization itself is a bourgeois pretense. Carefully co-scripted by Reza and the director, Carnage mocks but ultimately tolerates the problematic social roles into which men, women, bullies, victims, parents and even actors cast themselves. It’s intelligently played by all involved, particularly the self-satirizing Foster, and doesn’t take its audience for granted. At the very least it works as a movie-going palate cleanser: another photographed play, yes, but better that than another photographed comic book or board game.