Both before and after I watched Kimberly Peirce’s re-make of the movie “Carrie” I wondered Why? Why make another, not all that different version of the hit 1976 movie based on Stephen King’s novel? And why now?
The story itself is told fairly well here. A teenager named Carrie (played here by Chloe Grace Moretz of the “Kick-Ass” movies and “Hugo”) is humiliated at high school. Surprised by the beginning of her first menstrual period during a gym shower, she is pelted with taunts and Kimberly-Clark products by the other girls. A video of the event shows up on the Internet—how’s that for updating?
The ring-leading mean girl is suspended from school and will miss the prom. When she hears a friend has lent her beau to Carrie as a pity date to the big dance, ring-leader plots to again embarrass her shy classmate, this time by rigging her election as home-coming queen and then staging a humiliating stunt that the original movie turned into an iconic image.
But here’s the thing: Carrie isn’t just a shy social misfit. She has been raised by a religious-nut mother (Julianne Moore, swiping her second movie in about a month) who routinely locks her daughter in a closet. Seamstress Ma is also a self-flagellator. The new film’s scariest and most memorable image is of Ma digging a metal probe up the outside of her thigh as she stands behind the counter at the dry cleaner’s, listening to another parent’s apologies about the gym shower video.
While one is tempted to think living with Ma would be enough oddity in the life of young Carrie, then it turns out that the girl has a couple of developing super powers. One is the ability to levitate. Publicity for the first movie called this “telekinesis.”
She uses this ability to lock Ma up in the closet so that she can go off to the prom. And then, when the villain embarrasses our title character again, publicly, Carrie uses her powers to avenge herself on a decorated gym full of over-dressed teens. She protects, sort of, the well-intended blonde who arranged Carrie’s date and the generally effective teacher (who is played here by the always effective Judy Greer).
This version of the movie has a couple of interesting troubles. For one reason or another, Ansel Elgort’s character, the boy who escorts Carrie to the prom, doesn’t work. He is so difficult to read that moviegoers may wonder about his motivations, thus distracting themselves from the story. Then, too, the movie seems to understand Ma’s self-torture more than it does Carrie’s desire to fit in.
But the thing about the movie that troubled me was that I couldn’t figure out why the film was re-made. Hitchcock’s “Psycho” got an unfortunate cloning a few years ago because some investors agreed with Ted Turner that Gen X members wouldn’t watch black and white films. But the original “Carrie” was made in color.
One possible answer to the question Why was this movie re-made now? is that the story is about school bullying. Bullying, bullying, bullying. There seems to be a conspiracy abroad to convince us all that bullying is a problem that right now needs to be addressed.
Not that it is a new problem in schools. Perhaps the victims have gotten more docile than they were in my day, when the Greatest Generation told us out loud that a straight right to the nose was usually the surest way to stop taunting. Outsiders that intervened were not punished for having done so. Remember “The Magnificent Seven,” a black and white movie?
Ironically the story for “Carrie” isn’t a call to pacifism. Its title character does take action, and there is considerable carnage once she does. But the movie doesn’t seem to be interested in a resolution of the girl’s problems. And it isn’t all that interested in the big, dramatic, visual events at the climax of the prom sequence.
Instead the movie is interested in Ma repeatedly knocking her head against the wall. Which is curious, isn’t it? Why is the self-punishment in this “Carrie” so much more intense than is the revenge?