Saturday, January 14, 2012

Carnage Cast Power Rankings

It was pretty much impossible for me to come away from Carnage with a clean opinion, since I was so constantly preoccupied with comparing the performances in the film to the cast of the play. This isn't the movie's fault exactly (though I still don't see why at least Marcia Gay Harden and Jeff Daniels couldn't reprise their roles -- it's not like you're selling tickets on the star power of your cast, mostly because you're not selling tickets, this is playing in like three cities!), but regardless of blame, I just couldn't lose myself in the movie, as funny (and frustrating) as it is. [Also distracting? Trying to figure out where in Brooklyn this is taking place by the view outside the windows -- but they filmed this in Paris, right?]

So the best I can do is judge the four main cast members of Carnage based on how well they pulled off their characters, both on their own and relative to the original Broadway cast that I saw.

1. Kate Winslet: Can't remember which of my friends to credit this observation to, but it's so true: Kate Winslet plays a great drunk. She's so entertaining! She gets exactly the right comedic tone and nails her character's shift from meek to vicious.I thought Hope Davis was great on Broadway, but Winslet manages to be the film's only performer to solidly best her predecessor.

2. Christoph Waltz: He plays this part almost exactly the same as the Nazi he played in Inglorious Basterds, only with more disdain and less giggling. Which is deeply weird but makes for some fun moments. I also don't know WHAT he's supposed to be doing with that accent of his -- is it supposed to be gone? Because it's not. And as a result, it sounds like he's taking the time to thoroughly chew his words until they're mashed up enough to escape his mouth. He's funny, but he comes across like a total alien, and more often than not, I really wanted to see Jeff Daniels back in the role.

3. John C. Reilly: Here's the thing about God of Carnage, at least in its original Broadway incarnation: James Gandolfini was kind of not great. Don't get me wrong, he really had his moments. But the one thing Reilly's performance shows is that Michael is supposed to come off as a realistically shlubby Dad type before he goes all macho-rage-monster. Gandolfini really nailed the latter part, obvs. Reilly manages to nail the former part, equally obvs, but I don't for a second buy him as an angry caveman type. Casting an actor who could hit both those notes within the same performance would have been great.

4. Jodie Foster: Oh, girl. Look, I like Jodie Foster a lot, even if that like is running on Clarice Starling fumes. And to be honest, she was behind the 8-ball from the moment she was cast, because I absolutely adored Marcia Gay Harden in this role, and I'm really mad she's not up there on the big screen nailing it again. But even giving Jodie the benefit of the doubt ... she's not good. Harden played her as a self-righteous lunatic, sure, but she had modulation. Heart. A realistic sense of personhood. Jodie plays her as a punchline from start to end. Bummed me out.

5. "Alexander": He's not in the play, but damned if that kid can't swing a stick like he means business.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

The movie's really silly, and I love it for that because (of course I haven't seen the play, so correct me if I'm wrong) it seems to be about the innate pretentious silliness of human posturing. AND so glad you loved Kate. There's this scene early on where she just GLARES and Christoph Waltz and I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I agree with you elsewhere on the rankings, even though I sort of liked everyone. I prefer Jodie in the first half, though.

Woman brought her bitch-face.

Ryan T. said...

I probably would've had the same rankings. Winslet is definitely tops for me.