Friday, July 25, 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

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

Tech Trekkers boldly go into STEM fields

By Amy Jiang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Decoding breast milk secrets reveals clues to lasting health

By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

California climate change policies to hit our pocketbooks

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

 
Carwash raises funds for funeral expenses

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Appeals court upholds high-speed rail route

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Artists, photographers invited to support Yolo Basin Foundation

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Unitarians will host summer camp

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sudwerk’s sales grow, floating on a sea of dry hop lager

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Wetlands visitors will see migrating shorebirds

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

‘Bak2Sac’ free train ride program launched

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Explorit: Wonderful wetlands right at home

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Recycle old paint cans for free

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Where your gas money goes

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

STEAC needs donations of personal care items

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

 
Americans, internationals make connections

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Trio disagrees on best option

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Thanks for emergency help

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Commenting system to change

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10, 24 Comments

 
Support these local restaurants

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Let’s get the bench repaired

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Predicting climate changes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Clinton’s book is worth a read

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

 
.

Sports

Enriquez brilliant, but Post 77 season ends with Area 1 loss

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Hudson solid, Hamels better in Giants’ loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Petrovic, Putnam share Canadian Open lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Moss powers A’s past Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
The un-Armstrong? Tour ‘boss’ Nibali wins Stage 18

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘A Most Wanted Man’: Superb espionage drama

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Clyde Elmore: Art in the Wild

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Musicians perform at Sunday service

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A17 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Accord’s latest model is most fuel efficient

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Mary Lita Bowen

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
James Thomas Feather

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Richard ‘Dick’ Robenalt

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, July 25, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A13

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Remax

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Vaughan Brookshaw

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Sherman Home

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Ciana Wallace

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Melrina A Maggiora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Jo Vallejo

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9