A stage bound film almost completely enacted within the confines of a Manhattan apartment, although filmed on a set in France due to Director Roman Polanski’s outstanding legal issue in the States.
The film employs perhaps some of the finest actors working at present and commences almost at the end of a discussion already undertaken off screen.
The young son of Nancy (Kate Winslet)and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) has after school, attacked and injured the son of Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C Reilly). A typed admission of guilt is being prepared, suitable to all the parents. The two couples have come together to discuss the incident in a very adult and civilized way, in the spirit of reconciliation, one could say.
The meeting is held at the aforementioned apartment of Michel and Penelope, the meeting is formal, proper and conducted with the utmost politeness according to the strict unwritten rules of such an engagement.
The film is very static in a physical sense but is very agile from an intellectual point of view, with each character allowed free reign to create, join and break allegiances within the small group. If you are expecting exploding cars, alien worlds and bad guys mown down in slow motion, then this will not be the film for you.
However, in it’s own way, this is just as vicious and brutal as any action film, as each character strips away the usual polite conventions to reveal their real persona underneath. This mirrors the whole of society but in microcosm. Just imagine how you might present to an audience if a camera followed and recorded your every word, see the dreadful “Big Brother” type reality shows for details.
The catalyst for the initial sense of order to be shattered, is the character of Alan, a high flying lawyer working for the medical industry. Alan is clearly attempting to mitigate the clients liability, despite corpses piling up at the door. As the initial meeting extends, Alan starts working the phones, much to the initial polite annoyance of Nancy and Alan, also latterly to the sheer desperation of his annoyed wife.
Alan is laid back, perfectly reasonable, not that fazed by his sons behaviour yet breaking the worst unwritten rule of being impolite, in polite company. This sets off a chain of events that takes the script in many directions, allowing each actor time to impress and impress they do.
Nancy like all mothers is protective of her son, but long suffering of Alan’s workload. Nancy then “throws” an unexpected curve-ball into the conversation, which takes the film in another direction.
Penelope is a bundle of shrill “do gooding”, wrapped up in a bow of neurosis but is well countered by her sad sack of a husband Michael. He is at least initially, happy to go along with the ride if that is what his wife wants, anything for the easy life.
All characters have to change to make a film enjoyable, screenwriters please note and this is no exception. Unlike most films where this seemingly occurs off screen, this happens within the films running time and is a joy to watch with this calibre of acting. To say too much would destroy the narrative twists and turns the plot takes, the destination is not the point though, it’s the journey here that counts.
Not to everyone’s taste perhaps because it is ultimately just four people talking, trying to leave and then talking some more. However for those that enjoy excellent acting, this is intelligent and interesting film-making with much to enjoy.
By definition a “talkie” but with great acting and an in depth yet very compact story, this is well worth seeking out
May have you shouting, “just leave the apartment already” before the end of the film.