JODIE FOSTER KATE WINSLET JOHN C. REILLY CHRISTOPH WALTZ
I have been looking forward to this film for a long time. Sometimes you just know things that will appeal to your own tastes, and the hilarious trailer certainly confirmed that. Directed by the controversial Oscar winner, Roman Polanski (The Pianist, The Ghost Writer), this film is based on the popular play and is rife with the right kind of mature comedy. Grown up arguing over their children’s playground fight couldn’t be a better opportunity for some of the year’s best performances. While taking place all in one room, with just four characters, I couldn’t help but realize these are the types of roles that only great actors can pull off or even acquire in the first place. All four of these Oscar nominees and winners showcase some of their rarely seen comedic sides and truly excel in every single way.
Penelope (Foster) and Michael (Reilly) Longstreet invite Nancy (Winslet) and Alan (Waltz) over to their house to discuss the fight their 11 year old boys had, where the Longstreet’s son was hit with a stick, losing two teeth. They type up a statement, have some coffee and dessert, all while playing nice. Accusations begin to fly as personalities clash, vomit goes all over the table, feelings are hurt, the women turn against the men and before you know it, everyone is screaming at each other. The more these parents talk, the worse off it gets, and the longer they discuss, the more they let their guards down. “I’m glad our son – kicked the *hit out of your son – and I wipe my *ss with your human rights!” says Nancy at one point.
I love scripts that take a mildly serious situation and find the humor in it. We are laughing hysterically at the behavior of these four people, but they are not enjoying themselves at all. “I don’t have a sense of humor, and I don’t want one” says Penelope when the group laughs at her tears. I thought everyone was perfectly cast here, especially the men. Waltz, who has made a career off of antagonist characters, really does that again here but in a highly intellectual and comedic way that extends his skill of acting in my view. Winslet is the true comic genius of the bunch and when she is completely let loose, it’s wonderful to watch. Reilly, the only actor that hasn't won an Oscar (but a nominee for Chicago) is too often placed in knuckle head comedies that disregard his real talent. This is the performance of his career.
Foster’s character has an answer and a comment for everything here. Never has Foster played a character like this, and her Penelope shows the widest range of emotions of all the characters. Foster, similar to Winslet, has always had this submerged comedy side but never lets it out. The veins in her neck really showcase how Foster just goes for this performance head on and she is fantastic, one of her best performances in a while. This movie works because of all of them together; yes, it goes over the top sometimes with the nasty comments, but that’s what is so great about the direction of the screenplay. This is the first film from Polanski that I have really loved. This is a great, short film that grown up families should really enjoy this holiday season.
Final Thought – Four of the best performances of the year, 2011’s best comedy no contest.
By: Dustin Chase W. Editor: Michael Woody