Carrie is a second adaptation of Stephen King’s original story, in which a teenager with telekinetic powers (Chloe Grace Moretz as “Carrie White”) exacts her revenge on her tormentors at the High School Prom.
Whereas Brian De Palma made a Hitchcock “horror film” back in 1976, today in 2013 Kimberly Peirce is more concerned with psycho-drama. So her take–even with all the same plot points–gives more weight to the mother figures (Julianne Moore as “Margaret White” and Judy Greer as “Ms. Desjardin”), as well as the dynamics of girls in groups. (JLH: 3.5/5)
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Carrie (1976) is one of those really memorable films from way back when that doesn’t actually hold up all that well when you watch it again years later.
Based on a Stephen King novel, Carrie is the story of a teenager who has been raised by a single mother named “Margaret.” At some point Margaret, already a religious woman, became a zealot after she was deserted by Carrie’s father. She has been very strict with Carrie, constraining her movements outside the home, and disciplining her by forcing her to pray in a locked closet filled with icons and crucifixes for hours on end for perceived infractions and transgressions. The result is not good. Now a teenager, Carrie is withdrawn and timid, unable to socialize with any of her classmates.
When Brian De Palma filmed his adaptation, he was in full Hitchcock mode, with long ascents up staircases punctuated by a score (by Pino Donaggio) that deliberately echoed the best work of Bernard Herrmann (especially Psycho and Vertigo). Stylistically it is of its time, with super-saturated color, split screens, and whole sequences in slow-motion.
Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie both got Oscar nominations for their over-the-top performances, Spacek as a traumatized girl and Laurie as her terrifying mother.
Skip ahead about forty years and the world is a different place, especially for women. The new Margaret (Julianne Moore) is a fragile flower and her daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a bit more resourceful. Even though all the major plot points are the same, the effect is much more grounded. Carrie 1976 was a horror movie, but Carrie 2013 is a tragic psycho-drama.
Although there are males figures in both versions, they are all in the background. Carrie’s primary relationships at school are with a teacher, who encourages Carrie and attempts to rescue her from the harassment of her peers, and the “Mean Girls” who find her easy prey.
Julianne Moore gives a heart-rending performance as Margaret. As wrong as her behavior may be, she is acting out of good intentions and she genuinely loves her child. When Carrie begins to pull away from her, Margaret is terrified that she won’t be able to protect her daughter any more, but she also fears for the day Carrie will leave home and she find herself alone.
Chloe Grace Moretz is equally good as Carrie; she shows intelligence and confidence, and she is especially engaging in the scenes in which she realizes she has telekinetic powers and learns how to employ them.
Even though I knew the ending, I was riveted by the performances of these two accomplished actresses, and I rooted for them even though I was fully aware of the harsh fate awaiting them.
Top Photo: “Carrie” (Moretz) dresses for the prom under the scrutiny of her mother “Margaret” (Julianne Moore).
Bottom Photo: Margaret takes Carrie home after the girls humiliate her in gym class.
Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Sony Pictures
PLEASE DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN CARRIE (2013)
To the people who wonder if Carrie (2013) is a “shot-by-shot” remake of Carrie (1976): The answer is no. Of course the basic plot is the same, but many details are different and the tone of each film is unique.
Carrie (1976) has a salacious tone; it is definitely a “male take” on women (their bodies as well as their emotions). Not surprisingly, Carrie (2013), directed by Kimberley Peirce, is a more “female take.” Peirce doesn’t linger over naked bodies as the girls shower the way De Palma does; she’s much more interested in the way they interact with one another.
Two specific examples:
* De Palma’s “Sue Snell” (Amy Irving) doesn’t have nearly the weight that Peirce gives her counterpart. In Carrie (2013), Gabriella Wilde conveys not only Sue’s guilt, but also the self-disgust she feels about letting bad-girl “Chris Hargensen” manipulate her into doing things she doesn’t really want to do. Ms. Desjardin’s tirade after the shower incident finally gives Sue an opportunity to separate herself from someone everyone knows is a “toxic” bully. (Peirce has also added a scene with Mr. Hargensen to help explain where Chris learned her evil ways.)
** Margaret and Sue’s mother “Mrs. Snell” (Priscilla Pointer in 1976 & Cynthia Preston in 2013) have two very different encounters in these films. In 1976, Margaret enters Mrs. Snell’s house all flounced up and hyper, hoping to sell her Christian paraphernalia. Mrs. Snell acts polite but put-upon, and buys Margaret off with a donation.
In 2013, Eleanor Snell (note that she now has a first name) goes to the dry cleaner to pick up Sue’s prom gown. Margaret emerges from the back, bedraggled, timid, & withdrawn. Eleanor reacts with visible concern and attempts to engage Margaret in conversation. But as Eleanor compliments Margaret on her expert tailoring, Margaret surreptitiously digs into her own arm with a seam ripper.
From this one scene–which is not in Carrie 1976–we learn three things:
1.) Margaret has a “real” job.
2.) Margaret is a “cutter.”
3.) Eleanor is a kind person & most likely a good mother too.
CONCLUSION? The devil is in the details 😉