First Hit: This film definitely shows how easily adults slide into bad behavior when they justify their actions in the service of the protection of their children.
During the opening credits we silently see an act where there are two kids engaged in a pushing match.
Then Zachary Cowan hits Ethan Longstreet with a tree branch he’s carrying. After the credits we’re in the Longstreet’s home with Ethan’s mother Penelope (played by Jodie Foster) at a keyboard typing a statement of the event. She types that Zachary was "armed" with a stick.
Zachary's dad Alan (played by Christoph Waltz), a lawyer, opposes the word "armed" and suggests "carrying" a stick. Standing by and supporting Penelope is her husband Michael (played by John C. Reilly), and supporting Alan is his wife Nancy (played by Kate Winslet).
This short scene defines the differences between the four people. We discover that there are four different people with differing opinions about what happened and what they should do about it. The discussion continues as it waves from one slightly off topic subject to another. Alan continues to receive phone calls during this meeting.
As the discussion continues opinions start to get stronger and anger begins to raise its ugly head. Occasionally they head back to the original reason why they are together to discuss their children’s actions but when alcohol enters the picture it becomes a story about what each thinks of the other. What didn’t work about this film is that it is unbelievable that they would have stayed together continuing to have these discussions without someone leaving.
However, the nice touches like dog barks in the background and a neighbor peeking through their door as they engage in hallway discussion, gave this a feel like it was being filmed in a real building.
Foster is the most intense and high minded opinionated of the four. Although I didn’t like her character she did it well. Reilly changed the most during the discussion. At one point he was very supportive of his wife but then blurts out that she's screwed up. Winslet was great as the quiet demur one who then, when her buttons are pushed and with a little alcohol becomes a tiger. Waltz was the most fun to watch. He’s articulate, disengaged and present all at the same time. His cell phone behavior is pointed and reflective of our current societal behavior. Yasmina Reza wrote the screenplay from the play “Le Dieu du carnage”. Roman Polanski adroitly directed this film and ensured that slowly built steam as these parents turn more behaviorally childish.
Overall: This was fun to watch as each of the characters crystallized their behavior through 18 year old single malt whiskey.