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2013 carrie
Carrie
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

For many cinephiles, Brian DePalma's 1976 film adaptation of Stephen King's novel is sacrosanct, a film like The Godfather, Jaws, or Star Wars that cannot and should not ever be remade. While I don’t share my fellow film buffs' reverence for either DePalma or his film, I do agree that, despite its campy overtones, the original Carrie is a masterwork on many levels.  The stylish direction still looks bold and original, even after decades of watching him pull from the same bag of tricks in lesser works, the cast of mostly unknowns seems as perfectly selected now as if they had all been the major stars they later became, and King’s story is as assured as if it were his tenth novel rather than his first. Carrie may be a classic of the American auteur era, but I can imagine its themes of isolation, adolescent confusion, and bloody revenge finding new resonance in our current age of cyber-bullying, religious-based home schooling, and mass school killings. Disappointingly, Kimberly Peirce's film is nothing but a flat, unimaginative rehash of the original. 

At its heart, Carrie is a story about girls, and it is surprising that the talented Pierce, who is also a lesbian and a feminist, fails to provide any fresh perspective on the material. The novel is also forty years old, and while adolescent isolation is no less of a problem today, its causes and effects are entirely different in the age of social media. But rather than seize a fertile opportunity to reimaginze the film for contemporary times, Pierce hauls out all the familiar issues that appear in every high school movie.  She even uses the same screenplay as the original film, with a few token additions and changes to bring it up to date. This approach not only renders the film irrelevant, it strips it of any power to scare us. Forty years ago, the idea that teenage hazing could lead to bloody mass murder seemed unthinkable, but by now, audiences have seen dozens of stories like this, in film and in real life. Likewise, it is much harder to believe that the iconic scene that incites Carrie would happen today quite the way it does in the novel and the films.

Chloë Grace Moretz is badly miscast in the title role. While DePalma is a undisputed virtuoso at composing shots and moving his camera, the best thing about his film is Sissy Spacek's performance. Although she was twenty-four when the film was made, she seemed undeniably childlike, innocent, and perplexed, conveying a feral quality with her wide eyes and frightened posture, an impression that was only heightened by her prior roles in Badlands and the TV show The Waltons. Moretz, by contrast, has made a name for herself in films like Kick Ass and Let Me In by playing characters who are wise beyond their years, and it is this very quality, as well as the ghosts of her previous roles, that makes it impossible to accept Moretz as the naïve, sheltered protagonist of this tale. Plus, even with unkempt hair, she is way too good-looking to be a reviled social outcast.  Julianne Moore plays Carrie’s disturbed religious-zealot mother, and it's a much better casting choice--she even resembles what I might imagine Spacek’s Carrie would have grown up to look like.  However, Moore lacks the desperate madness of Piper Laurie's iconic performance in the original film. The rest if the cast is totally forgettable and doesn't come close to filling the shoes of Nancy Allen, John Trovolta, William Katt, and Amy Irving. When you're watching a remake and you can’t stop thinking about the original actors while watching the new ones perform their scenes, it means the filmmakers haven’t really created a new movie, just recycled an old one. It makes you wonder why you took the trouble to come see the new picture, and why the studio bothered to remake it, as opposed to just reissuing the original.

Of course, studios can't earn much money from a reissue, and neither can they can jumpstart a director’s faltering career, as this movie is clearly trying to do. That's probably the most depressing thing about this new Carrie.  Pierce is a wonderful filmmaker, and she received an Oscar nod for her first feature, 1999’s powerful and provocative Boys Don't Cry.  But her second film, 2008's Stop-Loss, failed at the box office, and since then she's been stuck in movie jail. It's a sad but all-too-familiar Hollywood story: a gifted female director like Pierce can’t get her own projects off the ground while male directors like M. Night Shyamalan get to churn out a seemingly endless number of thier own terrible films before having to resort to making studio garbage or remakes of old properties. I hope Carrie provides the boost Pierce needs to get back to making original pictures, but it's hard to imagine this movie being very successful beyond its opening weekend. 

Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Produced by Kevin Misher

Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Based on the novel by Stephen King

With: Julianne Moore, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Zoë Belkin, Ansel Elgort, Samantha Weinstein, Karissa Strain, Judy Greer, Katie Strain, and Barry Shabaka Henley

Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Editing: Lee Percy and Nancy Richardson
Music: Marco Beltrami

Runtime: 100 min
Release Date: 18 October 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color