The 49th edition of the New York Film Festival kicks off on Friday night with the North American premiere of 'Carnage.' The latest film from controversial director Roman Polanski tells the story of two sets of parents (Jodie Foster/John C. Reilly and Kate Winslet/Christophe Waltz) who spend an afternoon discussing -- and then fighting about -- an incident that happened between their children. Based on the play 'God of Carnage' by Yasmina Reza, 'Carnage' is easily one of the most stage-y features of the year. To wit: it occurs in real-time and all the action takes place inside a spacious Brooklyn apartment. ("Brooklyn" since 'Carnage' was shot in France due to Polanski's legal issues.) With such few theatrical accoutrements, the game cast of Oscar veterans (all four have nominations, with Foster, Winslet and Waltz possessing trophies) are forced to act. Check that: ACT. (Or maybe: ACT.) Which player chews the most scenery in 'Carnage'? Check out the breakdown ahead.
4. Christophe Waltz as Alan Cowan
If you loved Christophe Waltz during his Oscar-winning performance in 'Inglourious Basterds,' then you really love him. As Alan, the Type-A businessman-cum-straight-man in 'Carnage,' Waltz uses his stern tone, steely gaze and air of elitism to wonderful effect. Even when the mud is slung around violently during the third act, he still stays somewhat above the fray, never resorting in to-the-rafters hysterics while stealing every moment he's onscreen. Waltz gives the type of performance a Supporting Actor nomination was made for, but he could have some stiff competition this year from a host of other veterans (Christopher Plummer, Max Von Sydow, Nick Nolte among others). He's the best part of 'Carnage,' which means he's the worst at eating scenery like a starving wolf. Scenery chewed: 12 percent
3. Kate Winslet as Nancy Cowan
A funny thing about Kate Winslet: because she gets so excited about winning awards (see: this year's Emmys), she's gotten this bad reputation as a sore winner. When you're as good as Winslet, though, why wouldn't you get excited about recognition? In 'Carnage,' she plays the chilly Nancy Cowan, a stern two-face who only gets wacky when the 18-year-old scotch is pulled out of the liquor cabinet. What begins as a mannered performance -- replete with a clenched jaw and tight bun -- turns manic as the film winds to its screaming conclusion. Winslet yells! Cries! Laughs like the creature at the end of 'Predator'! Vomits! Twice! Through it all though, the recent Best Actress winner hold her dignity and keeps the performance somewhat grounded; the scenery she eats is of the organic variety. Scenery chewed: 20 percent
2. John C. Reilly as Michael Longstreet
If you didn't know anything about 'Carnage,' you might assume that John C. Reilly is out of his depth -- after all, the actor has become known more for his comedy performances in recent years than his dramatic ones. It turns out the film is actually a good fit for Reilly, if only because it's a dark comedy that allows him to embrace the kind of boorish masculinity that you'd expect to see in a Will Ferrell film. Reilly's Michael is a slow-burn-type; he starts out as the relatable everyman, but things take a turn around the halfway mark. Unfortunately, the turn leaves Reilly adrift, and Michael's bubbling rage borders on parody. By the end, the star is flailing like a drowning victim grabbing for a life preserver. Rescue never comes, but plenty of scenery gets pulled into the murky depths during his search. Scenery chewed: 33 percent
1. Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet
Despite appearing in what amounts to one movie per year since 2005, it certainly feels like Jodie Foster doesn't act very often. This isn't to say that she's rusty, just that audiences aren't beholden to certain expectations from her. That works in Foster's favor in 'Carnage,' though her performance is certain to turn off a large number of viewers. She goes for it in this one, taking
'Carnage' opens in limited release on Dec. 16. Check back to Moviefone for more coverage from the 49th annual New York Film Festival next week.
Photo: Sony Classics