Chloe Grace-Moretz (Carrie White), Julianne Moore (Margaret White), Gabriela Wilde (Sue Snell) and Ansel Elgort (Tommy Ross) try to breathe life into Director Kimberly Peirce’s mess, but they fail. Moretz is the only actor who almost achieves something memorable, moving from awkward and shy to mindlessly destructive with ease, but even she is likely to regret this project.
Moore’s performance feels bad, but I think that mostly because of an awful screenplay (credited to Lawrence Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacaso) and equally atrocious lighting. Margaret is written and directed without the slightest shred of sympathy. She wrongly interprets scripture, abuses her daughter, cannot hold a conversation with anyone other than Carrie (to whom she is never nice), is preposterously naive and mutilates herself. Even more problematically, there have to be at least fifteen times Peirce floods Moore’s face with heavy lighting that makes her look demonic and devilish, and also proves gag worthy. It has been a long time since I’ve seen Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), so I cannot remember if Peirce’s lightning replicates De Palma’s, but it doesn’t matter. Whether or not it’s a homage, it fails insofar as it clouds Moore’s performance with visuals we cannot see past.
Speaking of bad directing: Peirce’s decision to place Moore in a crucifixion pose at the end of the film contradicts the ways the movie previously characterizes Margaret. Suddenly, we see an image that instantly tells us this woman is an aggrieved victim, when we know she isn’t one. Again, it doesn’t matter how Margaret’s death harkens back to the original Carrie. It fails here.
Peirce’s biggest misstep, however, is setting Carrie in 2013 without making the characters younger and/or changing some key plot points. In the mid-70s, the story worked with older teenagers, but that was a different time. The modern world features easier access to information, more focus on sex-education, social media, and the pervasive presence of sex. Moreover, we’ve seen a (mostly) successful women’s empowerment movement that has made Western culture more tolerant of and more willing to discuss women’s sexuality. So it is that Stephen King’s original plot doesn’t work with near high-school graduates in the modern world. As examples from early in this film, we cannot believe Carrie would be this uninformed about her period. Nor can we believe this many of her seventeen and eighteen-year-old classmates would throw tampons at her. Similarly, we cannot fathom the notion that Margaret would be unaware she is giving birth, no matter how crazy and sheltered she is, not after a nine month pregnancy in the year 1990-something.
Finally, this movie is a repeat of things come before. It isn’t much different from De Palma’s version, of course, but it is also very similar to Chronicle (2012), except that it doesn’t give its lead character any reprieve from maltreatment, doesn’t explain the origin of telekinetic talent, doesn’t show the character practicing and improving, and doesn’t feature anyone with similar abilities capable of challenging her or him. In other words, Carrie (2013) is a terrible version of Chronicle.
If you want to see a film about modern day telekinetic youngsters, check out Chronicle. If you want to see Carrie, see the original. Whatever you do, don’t see this one.