Friday, August 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Carrie’: Still raising the roof

By
From page A11 | October 18, 2013 |

“Carrie”

3.5 stars

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Judy Greer, Alex Russell, Ansel Elgort

Rating: R, for bloody violence, disturbing images, blasphemy, profanity and sexual content

Strong performances aren’t enough to save this odd-duck remake

By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic

Sissy Spacek was 27 when she starred in 1976’s first stab at Stephen King’s “Carrie.”

Although she acted the hell out of that role — pun intended — and garnered a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her efforts, she never quite looked or “felt” the part; her residual baby-fat years were a decade behind her. The actresses playing Carrie’s tormentors, all in their mid-20s, also looked too old for their parts … but that’s how director Brian De Palma was able to get away with all the nudity in the infamous opening shower scene.

With respect to age-appropriateness, then, Chloë Grace Moretz’s presence in director Kimberly Peirce’s fresh take on “Carrie” is a step in the right direction. Indeed, a massive step: At 16, Moretz is precisely right; she exudes the soft vulnerability of a repressed little girl whose horrific upbringing has further stunted her transition to womanhood.

Moretz is terrific in the role: never better than when she displays the heartbreaking flicker of trust over Carrie’s ill-advised hope that maybe, perhaps, she’s about to be accepted by her high school peers. Moretz’s deer-in-the-headlights insecurity, at such moments, wafts off her in palpable waves; we grieve for what we know is about to come.

Adding the ghastly IED of social media to the combustible brew already present in King’s 1974 novel is the sole significant contribution scripter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa makes to this new film. Otherwise, he borrows so heavily from Lawrence D. Cohen’s 1976 screenplay — verbatim exchanges of dialogue, whole scene set-ups — that I’m frankly surprised Aguirre-Sacasa felt he deserved a paycheck.

This update isn’t a slavish, shot-by-shot remake, like Gus Van Sant’s imbecilic 1998 retread of “Psycho,” but at times it’s damn close. That begs the obvious question: Why bother seeing this new film, when De Palma’s version remains readily available … and still quite relevant, in all the significant ways?

Well, Moretz’s performance, for openers. Co-star Julianne Moore is equally riveting, as Carrie’s ghastly mother, Margaret. More subtly — and this will sound odd, given the material — Peirce’s artistic sensibilities are kinder and gentler; she makes a point of protectively cocooning Carrie when the story allows, granting us moments that allow the frightened, emotionally abused girl to show through the rage avatar she’s destined to become.

No surprise, since Peirce’s claim to fame is 1999’s still-extraordinary “Boys Don’t Cry,” which remains a template for deftly handling a very tough real-world subject.

Additionally — and I’ll acknowledge Aguirre-Sacasa’s input here, as well — this take on the story is more “fair,” in both directions, during the climactic third act. Carrie’s deadly delivery of “justice” isn’t quite as indiscriminate, and she’s allowed a better-defined sense of awareness and mercy.

Alternatively, I always thought that John Travolta and Nancy Allen met their well-deserved doom much too easily in De Palma’s version, and Peirce apparently shared my view. Things are a lot grottier this time around, and — forgive me, but it’s true — much more satisfying.

A fairly pointless prologue delivers some back-story on just how deranged Margaret White is: an unsettling scene that Moore plays with a level of creepy, persuasive authenticity that I’ve not seen since Samantha Eggar licked the blood off her own baby, in 1979’s “The Brood.” The scene’s ick factor notwithstanding, it doesn’t really explain the origins of the warped maternal instinct that later prompts Margaret to raise Carrie in a repressively smothering embrace.

So, flash-forward to Carrie’s senior year in high school, where she does her best to fade into the background, whether in class, in the hallways or during gym. The journey to her damnation begins when she unexpectedly experiences her first period in the gym shower, much to the giggling amusement of the other girls, egged on by the catty Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday). Only one girl, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde), recognizes this act of group cruelty and withdraws.

Gym coach Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer) is furious; her subsequent punishment fits the crime. At the same time, she’s gentle with Carrie, striking an immediate bond and earning well-deserved trust. Greer shines in her scenes: a nice change from her usual overly broad sitcom roles.

Barry Shabaka Henley, on the other hand, is a one-note joke as the impotent Principal Morton: a badly conceived character who doesn’t belong in this film.

The defiant Chris, refusing to accept any responsibility for her heinous behavior, gets suspended and therefore barred from the upcoming prom. Her indignant fury percolates in the company of bad-actor boyfriend Billy Nolan (Alex Russell), and their scheme to “get back” at Carrie — who hardly deserves the additional abuse — is as horrific today as it was four decades ago.

The Chris/Billy dynamic is different, in this update. Travolta’s Billy was a clueless moron, easily led by the sexually teasing Chris; Russell’s Billy radiates genuine danger. He’s the true menace, although Doubleday’s Chris proves a willing acolyte.

Sue, her guilt mounting, seeks a way to atone for her sin; she therefore asks boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the prom. The idea is to give Carrie a means to regain her pride, but of course we know — as does Ms. Desjardin — that public targets are easier to hit. Tommy nonetheless goes along with this scheme, and Elgort plays him as genuinely kind and sympathetic: a truly good guy.

And, so, the players are assembled, awaiting events to come.

Moore is thoroughly chilling as the fanatically devout Margaret: a woman who has twisted scripture to her own distorted ends. Aguirre-Sacasa adds self-mutilation to Margaret’s kinks; she’s a reflexive cutter, which gets quite gruesome. Mostly, though, Margaret’s faux-pious rants are the stuff of nightmares, and Moore delivers them with Pentecostal passion.

Moretz shades her performance in a few interesting directions, the most significant of which is Carrie’s curiosity about her emerging telekinetic abilities: a talent clearly linked to her clumsy ascent to puberty. Moretz conveys a level of intelligent awareness that Spacek never quite caught (or De Palma wasn’t interested in exploiting).

But this, ultimately, typifies the major flaw in Peirce’s handling of this film. King’s novel has the sinister atmosphere of a parable that isn’t necessarily intended to represent reality; it’s a morality play that builds to a Grand Guignol climax with Old Testament-style justice. De Palma understood that, and his film has an atmosphere of slightly trashy exploitation, and is populated by exaggerated archetypes, rather than authentic characters.

De Palma also wanted to scare the willies out of us, which he absolutely did with his infamous final scene.

By trying to set these events more firmly in our actual world, and by turning Carrie more firmly into an abused girl next door, Peirce works against the tone that powers the core story. The result is more sad than scary, which may have been Peirce’s intent, but it’s also less satisfying.

This new “Carrie” may be more faithful to King’s novel — particularly with respect to Sue’s fate — but it’s less artistically successful. And that, given the powerhouse performances from Moretz and Moore, is a true shame.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at http://derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

     
    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Forum

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

     
    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics