The well-meaning reboot Carrie benefits from all the modern technical tools, but still can't match the original.
Why is it that Hollywood can't learn its lesson of remaking classic films? You would have thought they had learned something from the well-intentioned but soulless Sabrina, or Mark Wahlberg's Planet of the Apes. Yet, every few years a project comes along that reminds us that Hollywood has a very short memory and perhaps needs a kick in the face to remind them. This time, it's the Steven King classic Carrie, which is filled with excellent performances and good-looking special effects, but begs the obvious question of need.
Carrie is less a story about bloody murderous violence and a compelling drama between the titular telekinetic (Chloe Grace-Moretz) and her impossibly religious fanatical mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). The Bible-thumping mother has forced Carrie into a tiny box of a life, resembling the predicament battered wives must face. When Carrie comes of age during the classic shower scene, Moretz carries it off with near-perfect horror as her classmates get involved by posting it on the Internet. Soon, two camps arise: one manned by the remorseful Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and her hunky boyfriend Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), the other the class bitch Chris (Portia Doubleday) and her dangerous boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell). Ross takes Carrie to the prom, setting up what should be a magical night for the social misfit; instead, the worst possible scenario is played out, as Carrie's full powers are released on her classmates, in particular Chris and Billy.
Why this film needed a reboot/retelling/freshening up at all is beyond me. Yes, the final product does a good job of capturing the impossible life of the titular character, and is filled with terrific performances from Moretz and Moore. And yes, its ending is as tragic as the original, with dutiful respect given by Director Kimberly Peirce. But it can't escape the inestimable shadow of its predecessor. This Carrie looks a lot like the Spacek original, right down to dialogue and even some shot scenes. But the film's dramatic and disturbing opening - of Margaret giving birth to Carrie unassisted in their clapboard home - was apparently taken from the book. With a scene like that, one can imagine the audience being immediately dialed in, except that they've seen the rest before, even though this aspect adds a surprising new layer to things.
Sure, there are some who will point out that for every Sabrina, there's DiCaprio's The Great Gatsby or Romeo and Juliet, and Hugh Jackman's Les Miserables. And while they may claim victory, none of the previous versions have helped to define an entire genre - in short, each of these remakes actually improved upon the original, quickly relegating them to the bargain bin of the video store (does anyone actually have a video store in their neighborhood anymore?). Peirce does update the technological 'tools' of bullying, but few of our actors come across with any warmth or individuality, including Wilde or Elgort. Where Carrie succeeds is in the empathetic telling of a girl who is desperately trying to understand the changes in her body while balancing her mother's mutilating psychotic personality. If that sort of storytelling works for you, regardless if it's been done better, then ignore all of my fire-and-brimstone bellyaching.
The only way I can recommend seeing Carrie is if you haven't seen nor wish to see the original. All the pieces are here for an instant classic, except that it lives in a shadow that probably can never be matched. After watching the original this week, I better understand the controversy, and why audiences might shy away from giving it a chance. Perhaps that's a testament to the power of the Spacek film, or a rebuke of Hollywood's constant desire to remake that which should never be. I can't wait until someone decides to refresh A New Hope or Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'll sign that petition in a heartbeat. Carrie is rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.and has a runtime of 100 minutes.
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