am 3. Mai 2014
When this new version of the classic 1974 book by Stephen King came out, I was not that interested on watching it, to be honest. I remembered liking Brian De Palma’s 1976 version a lot and watching it several times in my youth. Thus, I did not think that the remake would be much better, but, oh boy was I wrong!!!
Kimberley Peirce's re-imagining (this is NOT a remake of the 1976 film, but a re-imagining of Stephen King’s 1974 book) is SOOOO much better on every single aspect that when comparing it to De Palma's film it makes the latter look like (with all respect and literally) a mediocre film. Where to begin?....Let's start with the acting:
1) Chloe Grace Moretz. She delivered the best performance I have EVER seen in my life. She was incredibly good at making you empathize with her character in a way that the 1976 version could only dream of. Chloe IS Carrie White while you watch this film: you get so much into the story and her character and what she goes through that you completely forget it's fiction (even though most of the elements of the story are, unfortunately, painfully realistic). I have already seen Kimberley Peirce's masterpiece (there is no other way to describe it, to be honest) 5 times and I'm planning on watching it again tonight, and every time Chloe breaks my heart and makes me cry.....
I was bullied when I was a kid and I know exactly how it makes you feel, and Chloe shows it perfectly: the pain on her face, on her expression, on her eyes, on her voice every time someone bullies and hurts her is just so realistic that unless you have no heart you feel so incredibly sorry for her character that when things appear to get better you go from heartbreak to elation, only to (as we all know) end up again heartbroken at the end....
When you watch this film you just want to hold Carrie and tell her that everything is going to be alright, that she is beautiful inside and outside and wonderful and that those who bully her are nothing compared to her, that they are people who themselves have serious issues with self confidence and that she will find someone who will love her....But you REALLY want to do this during the film, thanks to the incredible performance by Chloe Grace Moretz, who herself has been bullied in real life so also knows exactly what it feels like and delivers a performance full of honesty based on her own experiences and feelings, as she herself has said in interviews.....
In my honest opinion, Chloe Grace Moretz deserved an Oscar for best actress for her performance, which was unfairly given to someone else, but then, how many times have Oscars not been given to the people that actually deserved them? Think Sigourney Weaver for Aliens in 1986 (which by the way is my favorite ever film, but only four positions ahead of Carrie (2013), on my all time ranking).
Compared to Chloe's, and with all due respect, Sissy Spacek's performance was nothing short of cartoonish. And this is the honest true. Maybe it was partly because of the screenplay, which turned the amazing Stephen King characters into cardboard characters, or maybe (or also) because, unlike Chloe, Sissy Spacek was in her late 20s when she appeared in the 1976 version, while Chloe (and lets remember here that the character of Carrie is a teenager, not someone approaching her 30s) was 15 when she appeared in the 2013 re-imagining, and thus, makes her character much more realistic by just looking at her, and this is even before comparing their acting. But it’s probably because of the simple fact that Chloe Grace Moretz is a much better actress than Sissy Spacek.
After watching Carrie (2013) and being so extremely impressed with Chloe's performance I decided to watch several of her other films, including Let Me In (2010), Hick (2011), Texas Killing Fields (2011), Dark Shadows (2012), Kick Ass (2010) and Kick Ass 2 (2013) and just like I expected from watching her on Carrie, all her performances were incredibly good and believable, specially on Let Me In, where she delivered another amazing and haunting performance.
I have never seen someone so young (she is only 17 now, and 15 while filming Carrie) acting in such an amazing and incredible way, and being as mature and intelligent as she is (just check her interview on one of the special features of the Blu Ray of Carrie (2013), called 'Creating Carrie' and you will see what I mean). I have also seen other interviews with her and she always appears amazingly down to earth and not at all conceited, even though she is not only a famous actress and extremely talented but also very beautiful, which is all the more credit to her. I hope the best for her career as it is very rare for someone so talented and beautiful to also be so mature and intelligent at her age and (again for what I've seen of her in interviews) to also be such a genuinely nice person.
2) Julianne Moore. Her performance, just like Chloe's was superb. She was extremely believable as the religious zealot who turned her daughter into a virtual home recluse and who, in her failed attempt to protect her, actually hurt her more than protected her. For the first scene on the film (which starts with Julianne’s character) you BELIEVE that she is a religious extremist and that she has major psychological problems, and also that she should have never had a daughter, as she doesn't know how to raise her.
One of the aspects of the film that makes it so heartbreaking is that, unlike the 1976 film, here Margaret White's character is not a one dimensional, unbelievable cardboard-cut religious extremist 'baddie' caricature and thus you actually believe that she genuinely loves her daughter, but, again, without knowing how to raise her properly, due to both of the issues above mentioned. The scenes Chloe and Julianne share perfectly emanate the deep love between each other, and it makes it all the more heartbreaking at the end of the film. Also, those scenes when they have a confrontation still show that they both love each other deeply, which is something extremely hard to accomplish, in my honest opinion, especially when the temptation is there to try to scare the audience (which is what the 1976 version did all along), rather than to show a realistic and dramatic scene as portrayed in King’s book.
Correspondingly, I also believe that Julianne should have won an Oscar for her performance as best secondary actress, which was one of the best I have ever seen (and this includes all her performances in past films where she was Oscar nominated, including Boogie Nights were she also had a similarly motherly character).
3) The rest of the cast was also amazingly good, starting with Judy Greer who played the character (rightly named after the novel, unlike in the 1976 version) of Ms. Desjardin, who did a great job of bringing humanity to someone with a position of power at the high school where the horrifying bullying of Carrie happens, and who genuinely showed her caring for the latter.
Compare this with the 1976 version, where this same character (called Miss Collins) at one point basically condones the bullying that Carrie suffers, when she says that she could understand what the girls felt like about Carrie having her first period and not knowing anything about it (before throwing the tampons at her), as she felt similarly, and thus as if this was Carrie's own fault somehow, not her mother’s and her peers’, with the latter wanting nothing to do with Carrie other than to bully her and make her feel like nothing. Of course this could just be because of the screenplay of the 1976 version, but then this same character does not show anywhere near the compassion in De Palma’s version that Judy's character does on the 2013 film anywhere on it. What is clear is that while Judy Greer is phenomenal, very believable (like every character on the 2013 version) and likeable, Betty Buckley is none of the above on the 1976 one.
Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell was very convincing and made you believe that her character actually wanted to make up to Carrie on this version of the story, while the corresponding actress (Amy Irving) on the 1976 did not managed to do so. Similarly it goes for Ansel Elgort, who played the role of Tommy Ross: he is extremely believable and likable as a genuinely cool AND nice guy (and thus not all conceited as in the 1976 film), while William Katt on De Palma’s version was nothing more than a cartoon character, and extremely unlikable.
And for those who say that Chloe Grace Moretz is too beautiful to play Carrie, they show a complete lack of knowledge and understanding regarding bullying: it doesn’t just happen to people who are not considered ‘beautiful’; it can happen to anyone who is seen as an easy target, such as those who don’t fight back. I wasn’t ugly when I was bullied at school, and neither was (for example) Sarah Michelle Gellar, another actress who (like Chloe) was bullied during her school years. In fact, beauty can bring about bullying when others are jealous of your beauty and they perceive that they can bully you using any excuse and thus try to make themselves feel better by putting you down.
And this brings us to the screenplay:
The 1976 version was a loosely based adaptation of the Stephen King book, and took many liberties on the story, such as changing the ending to a cheap shock-based scene which (like other reviews have pointed out here on Amazon) cheapened the story, to the point which (at least temporarily) may make you forget that the book (as the 2013 version) is MAINLY a drama about bullying and what being overprotected can bring about (as shown with the several references to Carrie having previously been tricked by her peers in the past, which are present on the new version but completely absent from the 1976 one). Also Sue Snell's pregnancy is only present here, as well as the gas station scene, to name but a few. While the screenplay of the 1976 version is solely trying to scare and shock the audience and completely ignoring what Stephen King was telling us on his book, the screenplay of the re-imagining does a fabulous job of showing exactly what King always intended the story to be about.
As in 'Boys Don't Cry' (1999), Kimberley Peirce shows her mastery at directing characters who are going through extremely difficult situations, as well as at directing those who made their lives hell. On both the latter film and on Carrie (2013) the evil characters are not caricatures, but extremely believable characters and thus the effect they have on the films is to make them far more believable than otherwise. Also, all the credit to the casting of the re-imagining as Portia Doubleday and Alex Russell were the perfect choices for their roles, and show that they are extremely talented actors.
Another aspect that deserves attention is the haunting score by Marco Beltrami, which, unlike the Psycho rip-off score of the 1976 version (a film which even references Hitchcock’s film by changing the original name of the high school found on the Stephen King book from Thomas Ewen Consolidated High to 'Bates High'), takes hold of you from the first time it plays and helps you get into Carrie White's shoes, which, again, is what King intended (as on all his novels, of which I have read virtually all as I am a massive fan of his writing). Marco Beltrami’s score helps you feel what poor Carrie White is feeling at all times, from total sadness and heartbreak, to happiness, to regret for her final actions and finally to heartbreak again.
A very important fact is that the 2013 version, masterfully directed by Kimberley Peirce and written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, makes SURE to leave the right message at the end, with an ending which is similar to that in the book, and which ensures that when the credits come, you are not feeling scared about poor Carrie, but heartbroken by her plight. Again, this is the complete reverse of the 1976 version, which, for what I can now see (but I did not realize until I saw the 2013 film), did not care at all about poor Carrie and just seemingly wanted to make people scared of an innocent, sensitive and hurt soul, which, to be honest, I find despicable.
Carrie may have ended up killing many people, but the re-imagining clearly shows that she did NOT intended to do so (including several times right after Carrie kills someone, where it can be clearly seen on her face) and Chloe's fabulous performance is central to showing just how much she regretted it. Like the theatrical and DVD ending explains, she was pushed too far and you can only push someone so far until they break. This film has had such an effect on me (emotional and psychological) that it has fully opened my eyes to the horrifying effects of bullying on people, and has made me realize that is something that needs to be treated with extreme seriousness and eradicated from every single school not just in America, but everywhere.
Even though I am a fan of Brian De Palma, after watching Kimberly Peirce's take on the story, I had to admit that (with all respect to everyone) De Palma and the rest of the team involved on the 1976 version did a mediocre job, but this is only noticeable if you watch the 2013 version in an HONEST way and let the drama of the actual story (as described on the book) take over you (as Stephen King originally intended), rather than going into it thinking that this film is your standard slasher teen horror film (as the 1976 film was), as it is not. Also, if you watch this film looking for flaws because you hate remakes (this is a re-imagining of the book, not a remake of the 1976 film) or because you love the first adaptation, you won't like it, and it will be all the worse for you as you will be spoiling the best film to come out of Hollywood in more than a decade.
Important: There is an online petition asking for the original cut of the film to be released on DVD and BluRay this coming Halloween. Apparently the original cut was very different and included aspects from the book not present on the 2013 version (and definitely neither on the 1976 one) such as the destruction of the town, the White Commission, Carrie killing survivors of the prom, the stone rain and Carrie and Tommy kissing, to name but a few. This original cut was also longer than the one released on cinemas and DVD/BluRay. They need 20000 signatures and at the moment they are just short of 6000. Unfortunately I am not allowed to post the link here but if you search for 'Carrie 2013 petition' online you will easily find it. Thank you in advance.