While researching this week’s Wandering Through the Shelves Mother-Dauighter Movie challenge,I unintentionally stumbled onto yet another example of one of Jay’s least favourite subgenres: Beautiful Women Condescendingly Playing Ugly Ducklings.
The plain high school girl here is of course played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who has grown into quite a beautiful woman and is thus not at all how I pictured Carrie when reading Stephen King’s novel. I always found King to be a fantastic and often insightful writer and this moving and- best of all- to the point (he has a tendency to ramble sometimes) story was my favourite book in high school.
Most classics don’t need a remake but- I’ll be honest- Carrie needed an update. At the risk of alienating Brian De Palma’s many fans, his 1976 Oscar-nominated adaptation hasn’t aged well. The dated music and hokey dialogue distract from King’s powerful story when viewed today. (Trust me, I just did). What holds up, of course, are Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie who play the lonely daughter and controlling mother.
Kimberly Peirce seems up to the challenge of providing a fresh take on this story. In Boys Don’t Cry, she told a story of an outsider that was both beautiful in it’s depiction of human connection as well as horrifying in it’s display of our capacity for cruelty. Perfect for Carrie. Besides, five of the six most important characters are women so a woman’s voice seems welcome.
Unfortunately, Peirce follows De Palma’s template religiously, even recyclying the 1976 film’s dialogue whenever possible. To be fair, she does an impressive job incorporating modern concepts like cyberbullying into the story. She softens up the mom a little, played much more subtley by Julianne Moore than Laurie’s larger than life performance. That Margaret White is convinced that she’s acting out of love for her daughter is made much more clear in Peirce’s version. Still not enough to feel like a fresh take on the story though.
The biggest problem might be Moretz though. While Spacek appropriately never seemed comfortable in her own skin, Moretz seems much more comfortable kicking ass in Kick Ass than she does as an outcast. Apparently drawing from her own experience with being bullied, she does the best she can playing against type but it’s never a great fit for the character until prom night where Carrie finally starts taking her revenge.
I still say De Palma’s version is showing it’s age and needed a fresh coat of paint but I’ll take his dated but imaginative interpretation over this lazy remake any day.