Carnage Plays It Tough, Sometimes Ugly
- Friday, January 13, 2012
By the time Michael breaks out the Scotch, the language turns rougher. Michael confirms his own self-diagnosis of being a “short tempered son of a b----.” Al says flat out that he doesn’t buy into that “caring parent crap.” Al has no love of outward morality. He acknowledges that “morally you’re supposed to overcome your impulses,” but he wonders, “what happens if you don’t want to overcome them?”
As the situation deteriorates, the husbands begin to berate their wives, saying they feel taken advantage of, forced to attend the peace-making session. “My wife had to drag me here today,” says Al of Nancy. “I let you recruit me” for the meeting, Michael tells Penelope. The wives react harshly. “I’m living with this totally negative person,” Penelope says of Michael. She ends up cussing him out and hitting him. Nancy has her revenge, too, by tossing Al’s smartphone into a vase of water and tulips.
Carnage is not a drama of compassion or healing. It exposes its protagonists for the shallow people they are and ends on a note of irony. The great risk is that, in enjoying seeing these self-righteous characters take a fall, we end up exhibiting the same trait we disdain in them: feeling like we’re better than they are.
The movie does tackle a serious issue: How are we to keep peace with each other? James tells us, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18) Sadly, the characters in Carnage are closer in their behavior to those James condemns: “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder.” (James 3:16)
Carnage is skillfully acted and directed, but viewers will have to decide whether seeing such negative behavior has rewards or lessons worth considering. If you do attend, be sure to closely watch the action behind the rolling end credits for a hint of reconciliation.
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; several uses of the “f” word; “s-it”; “dam-it”; “c-ap”; “p-ssy a-s”; “son of a b-tch”; racial epithet; a character says Jane Fonda made him want to buy a Ku Klux Klan poster; gay slur.
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: All four characters drink Scotch; Michael offers Al a cigar, and Al tells Nancy he’ll smoke it if he wants to; Penelope says she doesn’t get drunk; Nancy says she wants to “get drunk off my a--, blind drunk.”
- Sex/Nudity: None; Penelope walks into her bathroom, where Alan is blow-drying his stained pants in his underwear, but nothing is seen.
- Violence/Crime: The incident that sets the story in motion—one boy striking another with a stick on a playground—is seen from a distance in the film’s opening moments; description of the wounded boy’s injuries, particularly an exposed tooth nerve and the loss of two teeth; Michael says he left his child’s hamster on the street; the men remember being part of “gangs” in their youth; vomiting and the spitting up of bile; Penelope calls the boy with the stick a threat to homeland security; Penelope hits Michael; a cellphone is thrown into a vase.
- Religion/Morals: Al says he believes in a God of carnage, and references violence in Africa as an example of humans’ capacity for violence; Al says moral human beings are supposed to overcome their impulses, but wonders what happens if people don’t want to overcome them. “Who wants to say a Hail Mary when you’re having sex?” he asks.
Marriage: Al says he has another son by a previous marriage; both couples reveal strains in their marriages, with the women joining forces to confront the men.
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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