This film did not receive much publicity when it was released although it came out recently (2011), has a stellar cast (Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly, the first three being Oscar winners and the last a nominee), and was directed by Roman Polanski. It is set in New York City but was actually filmed in Europe, since Polanksi is a fugitive from the law in the US due to charges of rape of a minor.
The short 75-minute dark comedy is really a one-act play that takes place in real time in the apartment of one couple (Foster and Reilly) who have invited another couple (Winslet and Waltz) in order to resolve an issue that arose when the 11-year old son of the former couple was hit with a stick by his friend, the son of the latter couple, resulting in the loss of two teeth.
The intent of the meeting was for urbane and reasonable adults to resolve a fight between their sons in a peaceful and civilized manner. While the meeting between the four adults starts off well with everyone trying to be accommodating, the atmosphere slowly starts disintegrating as hidden tensions start to reveal themselves and allegiances shift, between and within the couples, between the genders (as the two men find similarities in their reactions to the two women), and between classes (Waltz being a high-powered lawyer who is perpetually on his cell phone and Reilly being a hardware salesman), and everyone starts yelling at each other, with the original purpose of the meeting fading into the background as the group battles over other issues. The veneer of cultured behavior is revealed to be brittle and easily destroyed, revealing the adults to be not much better than children at resolving disputes.
I had never seen Waltz before but his performance as a disengaged husband and father was excellent, conveying perfectly a combination of condescension at having to waste his valuable time settling children’s squabbles, self-importance as he causes everyone else to sit around while takes phone call after phone call, and general sense of superiority over everyone else, while yet managing to not be a caricature and in fact somewhat likeable.
Here’s the trailer.