By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, and Judy Greer
Something came to mind while viewing this modernized version of Carrie. Either Stephen King was an astute psychic when he wrote his original novel about how far bullying can ‘carry’ someone in 1975 or Screen Gems and director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) saw dollar signs when turning on the news & seeing detailed observations on bullying featured on an almost daily basis. My guess is the latter. What’s interesting is that Carrie circa 2013 is not at all a terrible film. There are certainly a few unique edges crafted around an already thrice (if you count 1999’s The Rage: Carrie 2) told story. The main problem lies in the actual middle, as the film muddles along and even some admittedly better decisions made in modern times by Pierce cannot hide the fact that this film is nothing more than a retelling of the story revolving around a modern aesthetic.
A couple completely opposite ends of the spectrum decisions are made just in the casting of the film’s two main leads. When it comes to Margaret White (played by Piper Laurie in Brian DePalma’s brilliant 1976 film) Pierce did right by casting Moore. Bringing the added aspect of Margaret reacting to socialism by cutting herself, Moore is surprisingly brilliant. She wisely decided to not necessarily try and outdo Laurie. She just downplays it, making her actions seem even more powerful. She also shows some courage as there are some quite frankly unflattering angles of her face and body in the film. She obviously had great trust in her director, and whether intentional or not, they certainly pay off in the development of character and cynicism surrounding her motives.Moretz however, is another story. There is no doubt she was cast because of her rising stardom and infamy as Hit Girl from the Kick Ass series. Let me make clear that I am not necessarily saying she is bad in the role. But Moretz is growing into a beautiful young woman. And whether it was Carrie’s hair always parted equally on each side or Moretz’s seeming conscious decision to not bring to the role what has been done before, I never actually believed Carrie to be the complete introvert outcast she is described as in both the book and previous incarnations of the story. Again, this is not a knock on Moretz at all. It is just a bad case of miscasting for star quality as opposed to who would be right for the role.
As for the rest of the cast, it is a real interesting bunch. Interesting because for the most part, they are complete unknowns. Doubleday brings even more bitchiness to the role of Chris Hargensen than Nancy Allen did in 1976. She is conniving, and almost evil in just how unsympathetic a character she is. The character of Sue Snell is a curious one. Curious in that as opposed to other versions of the story, we are finally given a concrete reason of exactly why she was at the prom. This was actually a nice touch given by screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee.) The problem is that the actress portraying Snell (Wilde, from 2011’s Three Musketeers), only has one expression to give for each emotion her character has. I swear, whether she was taking pictures of Carrie’s infamous period in the shower or talking to her boyfriend Tommy (Elgort, in his feature debut) her facial expression never changed. It would have helped to have an actress in which we believe she is feeling regret for what she had done. Yet, we cannot get into her plight at all, and while the character might have been well written, its portrayal was not polished enough for my taste. As far as Greer (The Descendants) goes, I was not as against her casting as a lot of people seem to be. The character of P.E. teacher Ms Dejardin needs that combination of rough when it comes to dealing with defiant students and warm emotion when it comes to dealing with Carrie one on one. While the former was a bit lacking, I thought Greer’s ability to convey the latter made up for it.
I will say this: if there was ever going to be a good reworking of a classic such as Carrie, there needed to be a director that made the right approach with the decisions they make. And I feel overall, Pierce gets this right. Between the almost shot for shot approach she takes with Carrie’s first period scene to the quite obvious decision to make the color red into the symbolic crux of the story, Pierce’s direction was almost spot on. She realizes that everyone going to the film knows of its prom slaughter ending. And she builds upon this wisely. Even if the story seemed to drag toward the latter parts of the movie, when Carrie steps out of her house in dusk sunlight, takes a seat in the limo and starts that ride into the descent of madness we all know is coming, the film picks up on some overall great aesthetic and storytelling plights.Don’t get me wrong. I do not recommend you go out of your way to see this movie. It is a sheer moneymaking ploy in which there is no drive in sight other than to milk an almost dry cow. Yet there were some aspects I liked. I liked Moore’s performance. I liked how this film was about Carrie growing into her powers as much as womanhood. I liked Sue’s new intentions when it came to why she went to the prom. And I even liked the character development given in the dances leading up to the finale. Truth be told, once the (horrible looking CGI’d) blood falls on Carrie and she starts making Sith – like power gestures with her hands, I was feeling for those people inside, as I knew as much as the next guy what they were in for. Carrie is a film that is only slightly better than it ever had a right to be. But between this and a supposed remake of Pet Semetary coming down the pike, it makes you wonder what the next incarnation of Cujo is going to look like. Or if it will ever stop.