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.
*

45 comments:

Kim said...

Is it wrong that I so look forward to how Academy Award Winner Kate Winslet does the projectile vomit scene? :-)

I read that Reza is working closely with Polanski on this, so hopefully the satiric hilarity will stay intact. Saw it twice on Broadway, and what a treat this show was!

Joe Reid said...

Are you certain about those married pairings? Because if Kate is hitched to Matt Dillon, and Jodie to Christoph Waltz, I actually think you're looking at KATE taking the Marcia Gay Harden role.

If you're talking about the age difference between the actresses, then yes, you'd assume Jodie would be taking the Harden role. But temperamentally, it does make more sense the other way around.

Joe Reid said...

(I make that assumption on the basis that Matt Dillon = James Gandolfini and Christoph Waltz = Jeff Daniels are the far more obvious roles to peg.)

NicksFlickPicks said...

1) Yes, let's be happy that Jodie is stretching, and working with a top-flight director who didn't just think, "Let's get Meryl or Nicole! Or Blake Lively!"

2) Am guessing Jodie's francophilia sat well with Polanski and Reza, too. Maybe she and Waltz can do the play in both versions, as a Blu-Ray feature.

3) Ghost Writer shows that Polanski menace has not lost its black-comic edge.

4) He didn't open out Death and the Maiden at all from its three-character setup, so that's encouraging.

5) If filming starts out on the wrong foot or it seems like Jodie's nervous, they can quickly and inexpensively reset the entire movie inside a phone both, Porta Potty, or trunk of a car, and help her get her groove back.

6) That just made me wish that Angela Bassett were doing this. Imagine being stuck in a living room for two hours with her all pissed off.

Dorian said...

Really nice to see Jodie Foster get something meaty to chew on again, but it's sad to see that Marcia Gay Harden won't be reprising her Tony-winning role. She's not "bankable" I guess, but most of this cast isn't very bankable (which is a good thing!), and she's an Oscar winner too lest we forget. Hope that Matt Dillon doesn't struggle keeping pace with this group. Kind of those "one does not belong" situations on first view. Please prove me wrong, Matt! La Kate and Christoph Waltz aren't messing around and are striking while the iron's hot post-Oscar wins. It's hard to get excited about a Roman Polanski film, but I might make an exception with this. Now I want to read the play.

Robert said...

This is extremely exciting! I never saw the play but I'm loving the cast - should be so fun to watch Foster and Winslet go head to head.

James T said...

I didn't know anything about the play (except that it exists and that it was nominated for or had won a Tony) but I was just extremely excited when I read than Winslet is about to star in another movie that is going to give her something more interesting to do than Contagion is.

Plus: Polanski and this cast!

Assuming Foster gets tha Marcia Gay Harden role, is Winslet's role at least.. pretty good? Hope Davis got a Tony nomination so I guess it is. And, is it kind of Eternal Sunshine-y? Given the comedic element I mean.

So happy! Thanx for the post!

Ryan T. said...

There's a joke in there somewhere with Polanski hiring two actors who won Oscars for playing Nazis. But I won't make it.

troyhopper said...

@James: If memory serves me correctly, all four actors received Tony nods for their performances (in the lead categories, no less) with only Harden taking the prize.

Arkaan said...

The play wasn't a very good read. It won a Tony in a pretty poor year for new plays, imo. And I preferred Reasons to be Pretty that year, but not by a lot.

badmofo said...

Guys, it's Polanski! Why are you so nervous? No matter what his faults may be away from the camera, it's not like the man hasn't worked his ass off bringing us some of the most daring cinema of the past 5 decades.

At the very least he's as consistent as Aronofsky or von Trier -- IMO his spiritual successors -- so why shouldn't we trust him to knock this one out of park? Granted, I haven't read the play yet but it sounds so up his alley I wouldn't be surprised if it takes more effort for him to screw it up than anything else.

cal roth said...

No way Oscar will eat 4 lead nominations up. So, Jodie is Taylor and Winslet is Dennis, but which guy is the Burton?

stjeans said...

Here we go again! sad, really sad. Can someboby explain to me what is the big deal with Winslet? WHY? Who did she sleep with?? Does she as a deal with the Devil??? And Foster? Always stiff as a board! Oh! this is gonna be a NIGHTMARE...

Volvagia said...

Well, four or more lead films are probably the most difficult thing to pull off, without making it seem like a filmed stage play. (I feel that John Huston (The Misfits with Clift, Gable, Monroe, Wallach and Ritter as leads) and Sam Mendes (American Beauty with Spacey, Bening, Bentley and Birch as leads) were the only ones who were successful at pulling that specific trick off. (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, though still great, felt very much like a stage play.))

Volvagia said...

Well, four or more lead films are probably the most difficult thing to pull off, without making it seem like a filmed stage play. (I feel that John Huston (The Misfits with Clift, Gable, Monroe, Wallach and Ritter as leads) and Sam Mendes (American Beauty with Spacey, Bening, Bentley and Birch as leads) were the only ones who were successful at pulling that specific trick off. (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, though still great, felt very much like a stage play.))

Burning Reels said...

Saw The Ghost earlier so i'm pleased he's adding to his filmograhy and repertoire.

I have worries about the casting, as his casting for The Ghost was far from perfect, and I disagree with badmofo - he is not a particularly consistent director.

Polanski directing a satire has me intrigued and without spoiling, he did demonstrate some nice touches in The Ghost.

Volvagia said...

"The big deal with Winslet"? You've got to be KIDDING. You usually get seven years forgiveness in Hollywood for each automatically well received classic you appear in or direct. (Only rescinded if you appear in or direct something really awful, like what happened to Faye Dunaway and Michael Cimino.) Winslet's only got 1 year left before casting agents start turning on her. If "God of Carnage" is an artistic failure, she'll have to claw her way back through indie productions.

John said...

Winslet and Foster are good in my books but I want Davis and Harden!!

Joe Reid said...

I've actually come to hate the idea of actors following roles from the stage to the screen. Why not just film the play, in that instance? We expect the directors to put their own spin on interpretations, why shouldn't that include new performers?

James T said...

Joe Reid - It depends. I'm glad Kazan didn't just film the play and I'm glad he used Leigh (I'm sure you feel the same way) though Tandy would be the obvious choice since she was in the Broadway production but Leigh was more famous (and, perhaps, better).

I think you should choose who you want to. The one who originated the role or someone else. Why is the one better than the other?

Andrew R. said...

I want to see this even though I have never seen the play.

Three Academy Award winners! Oh, and Matt Dillon.

I'm predicting that Foster and Dillon will be the leads if this goes for Oscar. There is no way all four will get Lead nominations.

Ian said...

It's not like Polanski would be reinventing the wheel doing a film like this. The play has four actors in a room arguing for 90 minutes. It would take a lot to screw that up. Now "opening it up" for film might be a cause for concern, but hasn't Polanski tackled more difficult films than this in his career? This guy makes me vomit in real-life, but one thing I'd never question about him would be adapting a play to film. Is Reza doing the screenplay? Kate Winslet vs. Jodie Foster's gonna be epic. Not as sold on the casting for the guys, but it would have been a pipe dream to get Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini. But you'd think Marcia Gay Harden could have used her Oscar and Tony cred for a slot here. Guess not.

Kevin P. Durkin said...

Ugh, I hate this casting decision. Granted I'm just being difficult because the OBC was just *perfection* as far as casting is concerned. Such a dissapointment, I'm so bored with La Winslet! Is that a crime? I hope it's not...

p.s. I am mildly excited to see Foster at least.

NATHANIEL R said...

Joe -- i'm not certain about the married pairings. I was just thinking of the ages of the female characters and one is at least inferred to be younger (or maybe that was just my perception watching the play?) so whoever Jodie is married to I'm assuming she has the Harden role.

as for the casting transfers. How could you come to hate something that almost never happens? What basis for the hate? I can only think of Rent (and yes, that was problematic... but that was more to do with age than performances)

Nick -- but can you see Jodie in this kind of character/political/satiric comedy? Good point on Death and Maiden but i wish i liked that one more.

Ian -- i'd argue that "simple" films in design with complex themes, are the hardest to pull off. Everyone has to be entirely on their game because there's no way a misstep isn't visible.

sp said...

I saw the play , and the most interesting role was played by Marcia Gay Harden . I don't know if this film can be properly transferred to the silver screen. I want to know which actress will play the Harden role?

sp said...

It would have been perfect if Mike Nichols directed this piece- he works well with actors and directing very initmate scenes. The perfect example is : "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Closer" .

/3rtfu11 said...

Matt Dillon is a sore thumb. Why are you here? Who did you have to pay or let them blow you to get this gig?

Jodie Foster being an actress again…hurray! Her tough woman routine never rivaled Weaver in my book.

I was nervous that Christoph had officially sold out after Oscar turning down Cronenberg because the pay check didn’t have enough zeros.

My baby Kate (in Oprah voice) Winslet! Have nothing to add here since unlike the rest of them I trust her.

Ian said...

I'm talking about the technical aspects of it. If Polanski keeps a centralized location throughout, Reza's dialogue intact, and the actors are all on their respective games, I don't expect this film to be a failure. So the anxiety over Polanski directing this is odd to me, b/c in his catalogue, this kind of film shouldn't be that big a degree of difficulty for him to pull off.

NATHANIEL R said...

/3rtfull -- yeah, Christoph was worrying me too. Turning down Cronenberg for another mainstream villain role? Not a wise move, artistically speaking.

Kevin P. Durkin said...

Well considering all of the OBC members of this cast have already proven themselves to be very, very capable in front of a camera, the hate seems relevant.

cal roth said...

I've just read that Isabelle Huppert also played Jodie's role. Now THAT would be fantastic transfer. Can you imagine, Huppert and Polanski together?

rosecityjesse said...

Cal - Huppert + Polanski would be genius, agreed!!! Anything's better than Jodie, she left me YEARS ago. Once again, I'm totally happy with my old fave KW and her directorial pairings. I'm still trembling from the Mildred Pierce trailer - scratch that, from the mere notion Todd Haynes is filming Kate Winslet do anything!

Marcus said...

Winslet's on a roll. Todd Haynes, Soderbergh and then Polanski? I can only wish she does a Woody Allen movie after these.

Seeking Amy said...

Off of what Marcus said, is Nicole Kidman really the queen of auteurs compared to Winslet? I mean Winslet has:

Ang Lee
Michael Winterbottom
Phillip Kaufman
Michel Gondry
Jane Campion
Peter Jackson
Todd Haynes

and will have

Steven Soderbergh
Roman Polanski

and I don't know if you'd consider the following auteurs but they're all fine directors:

James Cameron
Todd Field
Sam Mendes
Stephen Daldry

and let's not forget she had to drop out of Match Point in ScarJo's part because of her pregnancy.

I don't know, her ratio of auteurs does seem higher to me because she also is younger and has been in fewer films than Nicole. I think all it would take is a Von Trier or a PTA and she wins.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I'm saying Polanski just got a delicious, angry performance out of Pierce Brosnan, and if he can do that, there's no reason he can't get the very talented Jodie exactly where she needs to go. She might not get there, but it's not inevitable that she won't. I wouldn't have called her to do well in a lot of the parts she's done well in, nor as someone to direct Home for the Holidays so adroitly, so we'll see. (I admit that her profound, insuperable outside-ness from her own comfort zone in Inside Man casts something of a shadow....)

Amanda said...

Well, maybe Nine would have been less awful and horrendous if the original stage cast had transfered. At least the original cast could actually sing.

Mirko said...

Whenever Polanski makes a movie, I'm on 7th Heaven and I'm particularly glad this time, since I was afraid I'd have to wait more time for a new film after THE GHOST WRITER (btw I'm enthused for its recent fipresci winning)

And also this could be the first really interesting Foster's film role since CONTACT

Alex said...

I've been hoping Jodie lands the co-lead of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, but this makes me just as happy. I miss the old days when she used to act. The other 4 kind of confuse me, though. Waltz and Winslet, though great, seem kinda wrong for their parts, and Dillon is...well, he's wrong for any part. Foster really excites me, though...

jake said...

We're talking Jodie here, people. She's obviously married to Kate in this. Duh !

Tahj said...

Uh lets just be excited that Jodie Foster is finally doing something interesting instead of worrying! We've been waiting for her to apply herself for years now. And when she does, boy watch out.

Maybe now that she's older she's past her commercial thriller phase. Why are people worried about her pulling it off? First off, word is that Polanki's version will be more dramatic anyway. And Foster is really good at arguing onscreen, being sarcastic and smart alecky with that natural delivery of hers. Winslet is great but I just hope she can pull it off because she seemed to struggle with the dialogue in Revolutionary Road probably because of the focus on keeping an accent. Anyway lets not judge Foster on her recent work and if we do, well look at that even in bad films she delivered. Can Kidman do that? 40 years in the business and I don't think she's gone rusty she's just chosen to not apply herself lately. That's all.

Anyway this is this is the best news in many many years for Foster fans because I thought after she won her two Oscars she stopped caring about acting.

Silencio said...

She's gonna nail it. I have total faith.

clint said...

I never post these comments but I was very excited as someone who saw the original cast on Broadway how great this would be. Years ago I always thought I thought Jodie Foster was going to be the next Katherine Hepburn and she still could be. Katherine to this day is still considered by a lot of writers, directors, and being the best actress of the last hundred years.
Like Katherine Jodie took a few years off to make movies she could actually bank on and were huge blockbusters for her, but I don't think you can disregard as being a great actress.
I can see Kate in the Hope Faith role. I thought she was great in The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and Little Children.
Matt Dillon: I have nothing to say and that's no a good thing.
The only thing I can say I seen Christoph alts in was Inglourious Bastards.
I'll have to agree if they add a llot of new characters and and try to make it to dramatic it's could be a disaster. If they want to add anything make it a brief scene with the kids and let that be that. Watching thes four characters bicker was the greatest thing about the play so Polanski shouldn't take away from that.

clint said...

Another thing I can say about Jodie is at least she turned down Hannibal. One of the worst adaptations of a novel I've ever read.

Doug said...

hope it will make me feel as awkward as "whos afraid of virginia woolf"

burleyboy said...

Its actually quite sad this is being made as an american film. The plays humour and wit will be completely usurped just like the broadway version did with the original text. does anyone remember the travesty of Death at a Funeral? the american version killed the entire soul of the original. And why must he open it up for the movie... it was made for theatre... not film... so leave it where it belongs.