Monday, May 28, 2012
Foster the Gravel
Roman Polanski's movie version of Yasmina Reza's play "God of Carnage" has a truncated title (just Carnage) and a cast of brilliant actors (John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, and Jodie Foster) hamming it up as New York City basket-cases getting hot and bothered because their elementary-school-aged sons got into a fight. It's a tedious and gorgeous movie, like a trashy sitcom directed by Ingmar Bergman. A claustrophobia sets in almost immediately, as we watch these four people act like complete and total idiots, with a gloss of philosophy and art-history added on to make the whole thing seem worth the trouble. But what makes it worth watching for real is Jodie Foster. It's like this is her Mommie Dearest moment (the 1981 Joan-Crawford dragshow that featured Faye Dunaway as the famous sadist/actress; Faye never seemed to recover). Foster plays a politically-correct, sincere, creepy, shrill harpie that tows the party-line so hard she makes the word "community" sound like bullets shooting out of a gun. It totally feels like she's channeling Mink Stole's Peggy Gravel all the way through. Peggy Gravel is the main character in John Waters' 1977 masterpiece Desperate Living, and in that movie Stole inhabits Peggy's psyche with a psychotic ferocity close to demon possession. As in all of Waters' movies, the characters mostly speak in hyperbolic hilarious monologues. Peggy in Desperate Living is always screeching about unfairness and crime and how she does not deserve the world she is living in. And Foster's Penelope Longstreet is in the same boat in Carnage. The shrillness is comic and hyperbolic, but the joke is very, very thin, as is the plot, which runs along the lines of Waiting for Godot with a little Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf tossed in for good measure. Polanski has made a John Waters' movie out of scraps from a Woody Allen one. It is delightfully stupid and probably a truly bad movie, but incredibly watchable like a dining room fuss in Mob Wives: pure camp, without any redeeming values. What's better than that?