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Stars: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C Reilly
Director: Roman Polanski
A sideshoot from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, this filmed version of the successful play finds two couples meeting to discuss the altercation between their two 11-year-old sons which resulted in one receiving facial injuries and two broken teeth.
The victim's parents are blue-collar hardware salesman Michael (Reilly) and his rather pretentious, neurotic wife Pen (Foster), a bleeding heart and part-time writer on African topics. How these two got together in the first place is one of life's mysteries; more convincing as a couple are the aggressor's parents, constantly-on-the-phone lawyer Alan (Waltz) and banking executive Nancy (Winslet).
It's apparent right away that on-edge Pen is spoiling for trouble and the quartet's veneer of politeness towards each other soon breaks down. Before long, everybody is at each other's throats. Alan drives everybody mad with his mobile conversations about a possible pharmaceutical lawsuit, and finds himself berated for throwing out the family hamster. Nancy is sick all over Pen's prized art books, and the embittered Pen herself, features tautly twisted, spews bile of a different kind in all directions.
It's a black comedy with some drily funny intercessions from Waltz - who amusingly admits his son is a 'maniac' (and almost conceals his own German accent) - though a little wearing at times as we enter the main action, following the writers' rather laboured contrivances to keep Alan and Nancy coming back to the others' apartment.
Performances - Foster's intensity is amazing - are almost frighteningly convincing, and the piece only occasionally betrays its stage origins. If you can stand non-stop backbiting and in-fighting with a touch of humour, this one may be for you - even if things rather peter out at the end.
France/Germany/Poland/Spain 2011. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Duboicolor.
79 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.
Review date: 29 Jan 2012