This is Part II of my blog on Roman Polanski’s Carnage, starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz. Early in the movie, 11 year-old Zachary’s parents are on their way to leave Ethan’s parents’ apartment after a discussion about Zachary knocking Ethan’s teeth out with a stick when Al, Zachary’s hot-shot father (Christoph Waltz), gets the first of many cell phone calls. We hear him assertively discussing a stockholder’s meeting—and something about half a billion dollars. During the discomfort of listening to him talk, Ethan’s parents feel they have unfinished business and invite Nancy and Al to come back into the living room for coffee and cobbler. Hosts Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Really) go to the kitchen to prepare the snack. While left alone, Nancy (Kate Winslet) says to Al, “Nice couple.” Somehow in the movie this mild remark sounds like a dire warning of disaster to come.
Diverting attention away from the boys, Michael mentions that he didn’t want the family hamster any more so he let it go on the sidewalk, terrifying it. Nancy is horrified and will bring this up throughout the rest of the movie. I first thought John C. Reilly was playing a laid back Peace Seeker, a type he often plays, until I realized this shock statement was more typical of a counter-phobic Questioner. He seems to relish the fear the hamster went through in the cruel outside, as though projecting his own fear out of himself and onto the poor little creature: “I’m not afraid--the hamster is.”
Later, Michael makes a joke about death. He’s never met Zachary’s parents before and he tells them his mother wants to be buried near her mother. He can imagine a couple of urns jabbering away. Maybe he’s trying to scare the Cowans away, something an uncomfortable counter-phobic Questioner might do. Still later, at the point when both couples have started drinking scotch and are fighting, Penelope calls him nihilistic.
Al, an Asserter, does everything big, as revealed in his phone calls. Money in the billions, talking to the Pentagon, “going for the jugular,” and rudely answering all eleven calls. He makes a call too. He’s bold and rude. When the women suggest Zachary will apologize on his own, he says, “Our son is a maniac. He won’t suddenly decide to apologize.” He calls it like it is. He offers to take Michael’s mother’s deposition and sue the pharmaceutical company for some dangerous medicine she’s taking. Then, going to his related Helper type, he pretends he’s a doctor over the phone and sweet talks her into quitting taking it.
In Part III, we’ll discuss, among other things, the personality type of the cell phone.