The recent remake of Carrie has been out on DVD and Blu-ray and various download platforms since January 14, which means that I'm way behind in getting a review out. Hey, look, it is what it is.
Don't take my two-months' silence for disinterest, however; as you might recall from my review of the movie from last October's theatrical release, I am a fan of the movie. I had problems with it on its initial release, but they did not prohibit my enjoyment.
Returning to the film in preparation for this review, I re-watched the movie four times: once the old-fashioned Blu-ray way; once with director Kimberley Peirce's commentary track; once on my laptop, via the DVD Sony included with the Blu-ray package (for screencapping purposes, and with the sound muted -- I listened to scores from original-series Star Trek episodes during this process, and there were times when the music fit the imagery almost perfectly . . . and times when it really, really didn't fit it at all); and then again with the commentary track for note-taking purposes.
Any good movie -- and a great many bad ones, too -- will offer up its secrets in layers, so that if you revisit it, you will find yourself noticing new things each time. Sometimes this causes you to appreciate a movie more, and sometimes less; but generally speaking, you will find yourself refining your opinions, for better or worse.
Or, at least, you will if you happen to be a blogger named Bryant Burnette who writes The Truth Inside The Lie. Others' mileage may vary, I suppose; but this is my experience, and it holds true.
For example, it holds very much true as regards Kimberly Peirce's version of Carrie, which I've now seen (one way or another) six times. Let's cut to the chase: yes, I still like it. Yes, I also still have problems with it. BUT . . . I have fewer problems with it, and the aspects that I liked initially seem even stronger to me now. So, all in all, my already-positive opinion of the film has become even more positive, albeit still tinged with a slight bit of "why'd-they-do-that" negativity.
This is the first of two posts I am going to do about the movie. More on that second one later; let's get the first written before we worry about the second, and the first is going to consist mostly of me rambling my way through the various thoughts I've accumulated during the course of my recent rewatches. We'll be illustrating the review with copious screencaps, too, so if my words bore you, there'll at least be some pretty pictures to look at.
I wouldn't necessarily count that image as one of them, though. I continue to be unimpressed by the way the movie was marketed, especially the "YOU WILL KNOW HER NAME" tagline. I mean, is the lack of familiarity with the name "Carrie White" an issue in any way? Not really, not in-story or in our own world, where we've been hearing the name for forty years now. It's a tagline that means nothing, says nothing, and gained the movie's box-office nothing.
But a movie is not a marketing campaign, and the movie itself is really quite good.
Let's turn to our screencaps for some specific evidence:
I love the opening scene, in which Margaret gives birth to Carrie, seemingly unaware that she is pregnant at all; possibly, even, unaware as to what, exactly, "pregnancy" is. All of this is hinted at in the novel, and seizing on it as a means of opening the film is one of the best decisions Peirce made on this project.
[A quick aside: you will note, perhaps, that my previous comment implies that the decision to open the movie in that manner WAS Peirce's. I have no way of knowing definitively if this was the case. It could have been, or it might have come from the screenplay, or from one of the film's producers, or from star Julianne Moore. However, getting across the idea of that complexity of collaboration is a ponderous task, and most film criticism adopts the simpler shorthand tactic of using what is known as "auteur theory." Simply put, auteur theory posits that a director is THE primary author of a film. It is a somewhat ridiculous concept, to be honest, but as a shorthand, it works. I mention this as a means of clarifying that when I say something like "seizing on it as a means of opening the film is one of the best decisions Peirce made on this project," I am not unaware of the fact that film is a collaborative medium. I am indulging in critical shorthand, nothing more. That said, on most film sets, the director IS the person who is the most responsible for making ultimate creative decisions; so statistically speaking, auteur-theory assertions are probably correct more often than not.]
I have seen some speculation online that when Margaret holds the scissors in front of the infant Carrie's face, she is stopped by Carrie's already-present telekinetic powers. I don't agree with that reading; Margaret stops herself. The infant actor in the scene does wave her arms about a bit, in a way that could be mistaken for Carrie wielding her power; but the simpler explanation is that little Carrie is simply waving her arms about. She's just been born! How would she even know that Margaret intended her harm? She's not Peter Parker; she does not have spider-sense.
Apart from that, does it not seem likely that if Margaret was trying to murder the infant and was then forcibly stopped from doing so, she would have a bit more horrified attitude toward the baby? She instead picks the child up, tenderly, and cradles her in her arms in a loving embrace that certainly contains no element of "this child is a witch that must be destroyed."
So, I am here to tell you (in a manner I am going to claim is definitive): infant Carrie DOES NOT stop the scissors.
The more I see it, the more masterful the shower scene seems to me. I think I'd still give Sissy Spacek the edge in terms of portraying Carrie's near-hysteria.
However, I still also think the definitive version of the scene is to be found in the novel. One of the choices that DePalma made in the 1976 film -- one that Peirce carries over for the 2013 film -- is Carrie exiting the show stall and going to the other girls for help. She goes charging out witlessly, and begins waving her bloody hands at the other girls. To me, it seems as if Carrie is simply too shy and reserved and fearful a person to do this; she strikes me as being more likely to withdraw to the corner of the shower where nobody can see her, and then become catatonic with horror until somebody comes along and snaps her out of it. In the novel, she begins bleeding onto the floor of the shower, does not notice, and is tormented by the other girls for her lack of hygiene and self-awareness. (Little do they know just how un-self-aware she is...)
So, for the record, I kind of wish Peirce had opted to stick more closely to the book.
[Sidebar: when I finally "make it" and become a prominent Hollywood producer -- which I'm just sure is going to happen any day now -- I plan to wait until about 2030 and then I'm going to produce an eight-part HBO series that re-adapts Carrie for the small screen, and really captures the novel. The shower scene will not happen until the last few minutes of the second episode. Go ahead and start looking forward to it now, y'all.]
That said, if this film had to restage the DePalma version of the shower scene, complete with Carrie charging out like a panicked cat, then Peirce's restaging is really quite successful. Another great decision made for this movie: having Chris respond in an initially helpful manner, and only turn nasty once Sue (who, understandably disgusted at finding another girl's menstrual blood on her own clothes, initiates the throwing of tampons) does so. The situation quickly escalates, but up until that point the motivations of the two primary participants -- Sue and Chris -- are believable, human, and relatable. My problem with the DePalma film is that a great many of its scenes feature characters who feel less like human beings than they do like aliens impersonating humans based on incomplete knowledge of things like emotion and psychology. Perhaps THE best element of Peirce's film is that it reverses that element, so much so that we can even feel some initial sympathy for Chris Hargensen during this shower scene.
Not long afterward, Carrie visits the principal's office, and Margaret is called to come and pick her up from school. This leads to one of my favorite visual moments in the film: Carrie is sitting in a hallway at school, eyes closed, seemingly trying to find some measure of inner peace before the storm she knows must be coming for her arrives. As she sits, a darkness passes over her face, and she opens her eyes to find her mother staring coldly down at her:
The nuances of the cinematography (courtesy of Steve Yedlin) have not survived the screencapping process, sadly, but maybe you get the idea nevertheless. One of my favorite moments in the movie.
As Carrie and Margaret are leaving, Carrie looks over and sees Chris, with her boyfriend, Billy:
Keep that little moment in mind; we will be calling back to it later.
Here's a bit of foreshadowing that doesn't entirely work for me:
I'm also not sure I buy that a kid would actually do this. Think about it. Around their neighborhood, Margaret would almost certainly be thought of as a crazy person, and both her yard and her driveway would be high on the avoid-at-all-costs list. From my memory of being a child, there are two ways to handle such yards and driveways: you either steer clear of them, or you steer WAY clear of them. But from what I remember, if you somehow slipped up and found yourself in the yard or dirveway of one of these houses, you assumed that the owner was looking down at you while aiming a sniper rifle, and doing an "eenie-meenie-miney-more" game to determine whether to pull the trigger.
So, for me, this asshole kid brazenly running up on Carrie like this -- not only in the driveway, but (horrors!) actually CONFRONTING THE DAUGHTER AND ASSAULTING THE CAR!!! -- is essentially a kiddie-kamikazi action. It rings false. Your mileage may vary.
I like the film's production design in general, and I especially like Carrie's prayer closet. On the one hand, it is obviously a dank little place where much misery has accrued over the years. But on the other hand, it feels like exactly the sort of place Margaret would think would be instructive and chastening, and, therefore, beneficial. The prayer closet in DePalma's film was also evocative, but it -- like Piper Laurie's Margaret -- went a bit too far in the wrong direction (i.e., toward camp).
IMDb informs me that the production design in Peirce's film was courtesy of Carol Spier, who is perhaps best known as a frequent David Cronenberg collaborator. She did the production design on such Cronenberg films as The Fly, Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, Dead Ringers, and, yes, The Dead Zone, to name a few, as well as notable non-Cronenberg films like Blade II, Pacific Rim, and (!) The Santa Clause.
When I initially reviewed the film last year, my choice for standout performance was Portia Doubleday, who plays Chris. She's probably dropped to third now (behind Julianne Moore, and maybe behind Chloe Moretz), but that's no indication that I've mellowed on the quality of Doubleday's performance; I haven't, and I think she is terrific.
The above screencap comes from the scene in which she is posting the video of Carrie's menstrual mishaps online. The moment is a bit screencap-resistant; Doubleday has an extremely complicated set of emotions playing on her face during this shot, and they are nearly as resistant to summary as they are to capturing one frame at a time. So I won't even really try; I'll simply marvel at it, and direct you to the scene itself.
Here's another, which is slightly more screencappable:
The look on Chris's face during this scene is just as complex, but perhaps a bit more explicable: here, Chris knows in one part of her brain that she has made a very serious set of mistakes, but believes in the other part that she is being persecuted in some way. Put another way, her id knows she has fucked up, but her superego is telling her to commit even further and refuse to accept any blame whatsoever. Her superego wins, but you can see the conflict playing out on her face here. It's great acting.
Let's jump ahead in the film just a bit and see one more such Doubleday/Chris moment:
This occurs when she and Billy have snuck into the gym to plant the bucket of blood above the stage. Again, the moment is somewhat incapable of being captured by still images, but I think you can get a sense of the roiling sea of conflicting emotions at play on Chris's face here. This is a girl who is devastated to not be going to her own senior prom. If we're really charitable toward her, we might also speculate that there is some advance sympathy and regret for what is going to be done to Carrie, but I think that's being too charitable; I think her motivations are simpler and more self-centered. She feels saddened and angered by what (as she perceives it) has been taken away from her.
Let's move on now and talk about the film's star, Chloe Grace Moretz. Here's one of her better scenes (four frames of it, at least):
I think you can make the argument that Moretz's performance is every bit as nuanced as Doubleday's (or Julianne Moore's). Speaking personally, though, I have such a greater degree of investment in the character of Carrie White -- and the resultant personal ideas of what a portrayal of Carrie should and shouldn't feel like, and has and hasn't felt like in the past from other actors -- that it can be a little difficult for me to sit back and simply experience what Moretz is doing in this movie. That is an unfair state of things, and I'm not entirely sure why that seems to be the case (I do not have the same struggles in other such scenarios, such as weighing the various James Bonds against one another) here; and yet, so it seems to be.
During these rewatches, I tried to pay close attention to her performance, and to divorce it from Sissy Spacek's (and from my mental conception of King's original Carrie; and from both Angela Bettis and -- yes -- Emily Bergl, too) as much as humanly possible. Doing so told me what I already knew: that Moretz was very good in this role 90% of the time, and ever so slightly too confident and assured the other 5% of the time. An example of that 5% comes when Carrie early on asserts that one of her mother's bizarre sayings is not even from the Bible. It's a funny moment, but do I entirely buy that Carrie could summon that much sass? Not really.
That said, in the novel, King has Carrie -- during the equivalent scene -- scream "You SUCK! You FUCK!" at her mother. So comparatively, Moretz is restrained. The idea is that her first period has simply unleashed something in her; she is, in the emotional and attitudinal sense of things, literally not the same person she was when she left the house that morning. It works in King's novel because his prose places us in Carrie's point of view, and we have access to her thoughts. A movie can't pull that trick as capably, and this one doesn't break new ground in that regard; even as part of my brain (the id, perhaps?) knows that Moretz is playing the scene correctly, the other part is frowning a bit and declaiming that something is amiss.
Not so during the scene pictured above, at the mirror. Moretz is terrific in that scene and the entirety of my brain knows it. She's even better in the scene immediately following Tommy asking her to the prom:
We have yet again come up against the limitations of the screencapping process, which are proving to be mostly inadequate when it comes to capturing complex emotion on young girls' faces. But if you've got a copy of the movie, check out this scene, where Carrie tells Miss Desjardin that she has been asked to the prom. The way she says it is in the tones of someone who legitimately had never even considered that such a thing might be possible, much less from a Tommy Ross. This is a girl who has probably spent the entirety of her life believing that she will probably never do much of anything other than live in the same house for the remainder of that life, so much so that not only has the thought of there being anything else never properly occurred to her, but the thought of there even being such a thought probably hasn't occurred to her. Until now, when all of a sudden she sees that there could be more to life. She's already gotten a glimpse of such potentiality, thanks to her moment at the mirror, and her subsequent investigations of what seem to her to be magical abilities of some sort; but even that was essentially predicated only upon herself, and lacked any real involvement from the rest of the human world.
Now, suddenly, the prospect of actually fitting in with other humans raises its head and announces its presence. Carrie is feeling that in all of its complex glory: the rich potential for happiness, but also the crushing potential for even deeper sadness should it fail to work out. Better to have loved and lost than to have never have loved at all, yes, probably; but better to have loved and lost, or better to have never even known there WAS such a thing as love? That's a tougher call, and you can see Moretz's Carrie struggling with it in this dynamite scene.
Moretz is also quite good during the prom-massacre scene; she adopts an animalistic posture and very nicely avoids the trap of replicating Sissy Spacek's vacant-eyed alien-ness, which worked so well for DePalma's film. Moretz conveys, as Spacek (and, for that matter, Angela Bettis in the 2002 television remake) did, the idea that Carrie's conscious mind has more or less vacated the scene.
Let's run through some of that sequence:
|It isn't evident from this screencap (unless you already know it), but Carrie's initial response to having the blood dumped on her is to just leave. GTFO, baby. But then, something gets her attention:|
|Even so, Carrie's intent is to get the fuck outta there.|
|She finds Miss Desjardin standing in her way. Desjardin only wants to help, but Carrie only wants to leave, so she telekinetically shoves the teacher back.|
|It is THIS that sets the match to the gasoline:|
|Carrie's rage is then unleashed, and as she screams, she issues a wave of telekinetic energy outward...|
|...blowing back everyone in front of her...|
|...and creating yet another hard-to-screencap-but-excellent moment.|
|She scrunches a dude inside some bleachers...|
|...she flings some people into glass doors...|
|Another favorite moment: Carrie sees Miss Desjardin again, and picks her up by the throat.|
There is plenty of other stuff, but I couldn't 'cap it all. It all feels as if it comes to a bit of a premature close, however, and culminates in a fairly unsuccessful effects shot of Carrie flying, witchlike, out of the gymnasium. I probably should have screencapped that, just to show something I don't like; but I didn't. Sue me.
Well, what else is there to discuss?
Yes, indeed, Hart Bochner has an uncredited role as Chris's slimy father. It's one of my favorite scenes in the novel, and the movie adds an interesting wrinkle: instead of having Mr. Hargensen get trumped by the principal, Miss Desjardin gets to knock both him and Chris on their metaphorical asses. Nice.
Here's a screencap of Chris's never-sent (?) text to her father shortly before her death:
Notice that whatever their previous communication had been, Chris's father had had to bail on something due to work. That's a miniscule little touch, but it's nice to see that the people making the movie had some ideas about how active a parental figure Mr. Hargensen was being for his daughter.
And because why not, here are a couple of other text messages, both received by Sue:
Nice product placement, Sony. (I don't actually mind; people in the real world use real products, so why shouldn't people in movies, too?)
My feeling about how this movie uses modern technology? I think it uses it damned well. All such devices have a core of humanity to them, because they are all used BY HUMANS. And humans inherently equal drama. It's up to the filmmaker to figure out how to incorporate that drama into their stories, and I think Peirce nailed it here. Not only is it logical for Tommy to text Sue updates, it's also logical that Chris would want to take a dig at Sue shortly before taking a bigger one at Carrie, and -- more importantly -- that that would motivate Sue to go to the prom. I like the novel's version of these events: that Sue simply knew, somehow, that she needed to seek Carrie out; but it makes dramatic sense for her to go to the prom, which does not happen in the book.
When I first realized that, I thought it was cool, but I also thought there was a slight element of bullshit to it, because how could they have gotten out? But in screencapping the scene, it is obvious that there is just enough room that Billy could have eventually, with enough effort, maneuvered his car into being able to get through the gap that Sue leaves. This is great stuff: it provides solid rationale for Billy and Chris being close enough to the gym that Carrie can find them once she leaves, and it also makes logical sense for them to have not been able to get farther away.
We haven't said much about Julianne Moore, have we? Not in terms of specifics, at least.
I said in my first review of the film that her Margaret was now, for me, the definitive cinematic version of the character. That opinion has not changed. She plays the role with a more successful version of the quiet menace that Patricia Clarkson used in the 2002 remake, adding a layer of genuine insanity to it that is more restrained and believable than the camp which Piper Laurie used in the 1976 version.
My only real criticism for the way Peirce depicts Margaret is that I could have used a bit more emphasis on Margaret being a bit of a community pariah. Maybe one scene of her visiting a neighbor with some Chick Tracts, or something. But that's a minor criticism; not a "real" one at all, actually. I'd have to say Moore's Margaret is a near-complete success.
Let's spare a moment to talk about the editing, courtesy of Lee Percy and Nancy Richardson. A trio of moments -- two great, one iffy -- stood out to me. Let's have a look.
During the scene in which Chris confronts Sue in the gym, Sue -- stung by the truth of Chris's accusations -- begins walking out of one of the gymnasium doors. The scene edits, and we see her walking in through the door of her own home.
Nothing complicated about this, but it's a nice example of what film editing can do that very few other mediums can: create psychology through juxtaposition. After being verbally lashed by Chris, Sue wants to retreat, and to find a more comfortable place; what place is more comfortable than home? Well, home she goes. And yet, ask Carrie White how comfortable home is; you might get a different answer. It seems likely that you'd get a different one from Chris, too.
What does Sue do once home? She goes and looks at her prom dress, which is itself a rich symbol in this movie: it represents a lot of things, but let's not forget that ONE of the facets it carries in terms of the story is that it was sewn by Margaret White herself. She denies her own daughter the pleasure of such things, but is perfectly capable of taking money in exchange for providing it to others. And it is, arguably, this very dress that helps to give Sue the idea that will, in time, put Carrie herself at the prom; and, eventually, in her grave, along with Sue's own boyfriend.
So take another look at that second screencap; it's that dress that Sue is looking off-frame toward. And whether she knows it or not, she is looking at Tommy's death.
Speaking of that dress, it also appears prominently in the second example of great editing I'd like to point out. It occurs during a nicely-edited montage that shows what various of the characters are doing after Carrie accepts Tommy's prom invitation and tells her mother about it. Chris and Billy are in the gym, hanging the bucket of blood; Billy is above, putting it in place, and as he jostles it, a drop of the blood falls onto Chris's face:
|We cut from Chris reacting to this to...|
|...Sue's red dress, which might theoretically be said to serve as a symbol of both Carrie's menstrual mishap AND Chris's "revenge" plan.|
And now, for a moment that doesn't work as well, editorially. One of the things that editors typically try to avoid like the plague is cutting between an actor's takes that vary wildly in tone. Every production is different, and actors vary one to another, as well; but it is very common for actors and directors to shoot multiple takes in which they experiment with different emphases. So, for example, they might film a three-person scene any number of different ways:one in which all three people are happy; one in which two are happy and one is sad; one in which one is happy and two are sad; one in which two are angry and one is happy; one in which everyone is stoned; one in which . . . ah, you get the picture.
The challenge for the editor is to then make sure that everything matches tonally.
Here is an example of that not happening:
|...the two of them looking like they've just exchanged very pleasant pleasantries. Major tonal shift; does not work at all.|
There is likely a good reason for this; the editors probably didn't have anything else to cut to. Or maybe Peirce simply liked both of those individual takes, and wanted to keep them, and then reasoned -- almost certainly correctly -- that so few people would notice that the tonal shift did not matter. Which is why I almost feel bad for pointing it out.
I've made up for it with copious praise elsewhere, though, so I figure it's all good.
By the way, as Miss Desjardin walked over to Carrie and Tommy at the beginning of this scene, the following was her approach:
It's a "oh my GOD, look how beautiful you are!" type approach, but it's also a forehsadowing of a later moment that will cause Miss Desjardin to cover her mouth in a completely different way:
We haven't talked much about Judy Greer. She's fantastic, and, just like Portia Doubleday and Julianne Moore, she is now (for me, at least) the definitive version of her character on film to date. We'll have more to say about her in a later portion of this review.
One of the elements of the movie -- two of them, I guess, technically -- that didn't entirely work for me initially was the casting of Tommy and Sue. I didn't dislike either Ansel Elgort or Gabriella Wilde, but I found both of them to be a little on the bland side.
I still feel that way about Wilde. She is good; there is nothing negative I can say about her here, except that she is a little unremarkable. However, I get the feeling that Peirce cast the role that way on purpose; I get the feeling that she has more contempt for Sue than for any other character in the entire movie (with the possible exception of Billy). We'll speak more of this later, when covering Peirce's commentary track.
We'll also have more to say about Elgort as Tommy, but for now, I can say that I have gained a greater appreciation of him during these rewatches.
I'd say much the same for Alex Russell as Billy. I had no beef with him in my initial review, but I felt that the movie underutilized him; and I still feel that that is the case. I also still feel it was a misstep to have the pig's-blood plot be Billy's idea and not Chris's. However, the Blu-ray contains a couple of deleted scenes that flesh Billy out a bit more, and I find that I am incorporating that knowledge into my view of this version of the character now.
It's also worth adding that I had no idea Russell was Australian -- or possibly Kiwi -- until seeing a behind-the-scenes interview with him. His American accent is flawless. (Gabriella Wilde's is pretty good, too, although I can hear hers break a couple of times.)
|Moon imagery on the table lamps.|
|More moon imagery.|
Lots of moon imagery, certainly in the prom sequence. But there is also lots of star imagery, at least at the prom. As a symbol, stars equal fate and destiny to me; this is probably due to Shakespeare, who spoke of "star-cross'd lovers" and of fault being "in our stars" rather than in ourselves. Keeping that in mind along with the idea that the gigantic moon represents Carrie's humiliation, and that screencap above begins to look like absolute grim-faced doom. Which, really, it is.
This seems like an opportune time to mention that the movie ceases working for me at a certain point. I have tried to narrow it down, and I believe that it comes just after the next scene I want to discuss:
|Freshly bathed (and chastened), Carrie seeks solace in her mother's arms.|
|Margaret has other plans.|
|As Margaret withdraws the knife and readies the blade for another stab, Carrie's telekinetic powers kick in, and flings the two apart from one another.|
|...Carrie flying down the stairs.|
|Margaret soon comes after Carrie, and between them lies the symbolic richness of the prayer closet, which looks like a torn, ragged vagina, but also, more simply, like evidence of a very broken home.|
The rest of Margaret's confrontation with Carrie doesn't work, though. I don't care for the effects of Margaret's impalement; I wish the scene from the novel (Carrie forcing her mother's heart to stop) had been considered; I wish the hail of rocks worked better . . . or, really, at all. I wish Carrie simply died of her knife-wound. I wish there had been some sort of attempt to replicate the novel's chilling scene of Sue being telepathically inside Carrie's consciousness at the moment of Carrie's death.
More than that, I wish the theatrical cut had ended differently.
The Blu-ray has a fascinating option: it allows you to watch the film with an alternative ending. In that ending, we cut from Sue -- who does not appear at court -- in the graveyard, placing a flower at the Whites' graveside to a shot of her in labor, trying to push her new child out into the world. She is screaming, and insists that something is wrong, and after a bit, we see a bloody hand come shooting out from between her legs.
We cut from this to a scene very like the way the DePalma movie ends, with Sue's mother trying to wake her up from what is obviously a very bad nightmare.
It isn't an awesome ending, per se, but I do like it, and it goes for a similar effect to the 1976 film without outright ripping it off. It's a riff; in jazz terms, it works pretty damn well.
The theatrical cut -- which I will probably not watch again except for academic purposes -- settles for . . . ah, go read my original review. I complain about it plenty there. Let's just say that it sucks.
Alright, now for a few leftover screencaps:
|I continue to be quite intrigued by the Strain girls, Katie and Karissa. I wonder if they are related to Julie Strain? Google provides me with no answer, which means probably not.|
|I wonder if those are all real books, but am too lazy to find out. I know the Volk one is, so I'd say it's a maybe.|
|OF COURSE Carrie would watch YouTube videos on this subject! Another great modernization.|
|I felt bad so I am including untouched Bochnerian screencaps.|
|Nice visual link between Sue and Carrie here.|
|In this scene, you see the foot pedal going up and down on its own. I didn't know Carrie was telekinetically making that happen until Peirce's commentary track; I thought that was just what they did! I am fairly stupid sometimes.|
|Much has been made about Moretz being too pretty for the role. It's a fair criticism (she IS pretty), but sometimes, pretty people suffer, too. I can live with the casting from that perspective.|
|I hadn't noticed it initially, but it appears that Margaret and Carrie share a grave. Is that something that happens? Might it have been in Margaret's will? Were there, perhaps, no bodies to actually bury?|
Now, let's move on to a bit of talk about Peirce's commentary track, beginning with a complaint: it isn't on the DVD! It's a Blu-ray exclusive!
That sort of thing infuriates me. Yes, I have a Blu-ray player, so for me personally it is irrelevant. But what is there to be gained by making that exclusive to one format? Do DVD purchasers not deserve to hear Peirce's thoughts? Does it seem likely that the exclusivity will somehow spur Blu-ray player sales? It's a nonsensical decision.
Anyways, here are some choice tidbits from the commentary:
- Says Peirce during the opening birth scene:"Margaret White loves her daughter and will do anything to protect her; she just has unorthodox ways of doing it.” Indeed, her commentary track did help make it plain to me that for all her lunacy, Margaret really does love her daughter.
- Peirce points out during the shower scene that Carrie being surprised by her menstrual flow has an echo of her own birth, during which Margaret had something she did not understand coming out of her, too. In both cases, the response initially was to assume something was wrong with her. (The alternative ending has a parallel of that with Sue's dream-birth, during which she protests, much like Carrie during her period, that it hurts and that something is wrong.)
- When Peirce first talked to Judy Greer about Miss Desjardin, Greer already had the character worked out: “She said to me, ‘this is a woman who doesn’t really have interest in her job, she no longer wears the right P.E. clothes; she’s probably hiding cigarettes, smoking in her office; and she’s basically just saving up for her summer vacations. And despite her desire to get out of there, this girl Carrie needs her, and so it arouses in her a maternal instinct. She kind of finds Carrie weird; the way she’s dealing with her, she’s keeping her distance, but it’s pulling out something in her that matters . . . her humanity and her maternal feelings.’ ” Greer plays Desjardin as someone who, earlier in life, was probably a lot like Sue: pretty, popular, energetic, fun. She's still trying -- with success, mostly -- to be all of those things, and you sense that somewhere along the line, something went wrong for her and caused her to focus on retaining her past, rather than move forward with her future. It's an interesting, effective performance.
- Peirce asserts that Margaret's self-abuse comes out because she'd much rather hurt herself than hurt her daughter . . . but that if hurting herself doesn't get the job done, she will resort to beating Carrie.
- At one point, Alex Russell was going to play Tommy.
- On the use of the poem "Samson Agonistes": she says she chose it "because the story of Samson is much like Carrie: he has power, and he pulls down the temple. I thought this was something, in her quest for knowledge, and self-knowledge, that she would have come across and loved, and identify with. She’s privately reading it, and the last thing she thinks is" [that] "she’s going to be called to the front; but when she is put in this humiliated position and she reads this poem aloud, you see that she’s coming into her own, she’s feeling a sense of power and confidence that she’s never seen.” This is fascinating. I loved the use of that poem, and I loved the scene in general, but it had not occurred to me that Carrie would have only recently discovered the poem. That causes the scene to play much differently, and actually improves it for me: she has found this poem that speaks to her, and goes with the moment in reading it aloud. And then, a teacher basically shits on her for it. Having the teacher do that doesn't entirely work (although I can theorize that Carrie's name would be mud thanks to her mother having caused problems for her various teachers), but it's at least better than the equivalent character in DePalma's film.
- On the subject of Sue Snell: Peirce says, “One of the biggest challenges of this story – even Stephen King talks about it – is, ‘How do we identify with Sue?’ I mean, the reality is, Sue should say ‘I’m sorry’ to Carrie; she should befriend her, and that would fix things. But a girl with great privilege, she really could only see the world in her own viewpoint, which is to donate that privilege. Charity. It was important that we started to stoke that with the dress, which is so beautiful, which Carrie’s mom sewed; Sue had this boyfriend, Tommy, who’s so handsome. These are the things that are germinating in her mind as to what she should do; a privileged girl will seek to donate her privilege.” “It won’t solve the problem, but it will make her feel better,” Peirce says during a later scene. This idea fascinated me, because it had never occurred to me. In some ways, everything that happens is due to Sue being irrationally convinced that the way to "fix" Carrie is to -- even if only for a night -- turn her into Sue, or a Sue equivalent. From Peirce's point of view, this was obviously a horrendous miscalculation, and I sense that of all the motivations of the various characters, Peirce identifies with this one the least. Chris is acting out of pure hatred; Billy is acting out of sexual desire; Margaret is acting out of perverted love. Sue is acting out of the incorrect belief that if only the world was just like her, it would be okay. In the long run, on the macro scale, motivations like that are perhaps more dangerous than outright hatred. That's my speculation of Peirce's thoughts, not Peirce's thoughts themselves, granted; and I'm not sure I agree. But it's a fascinating idea, and makes me reconsider not only Sue as a character, but also Gabriella Wilde's performance.
- Peirce sees a metaphorical relation between Carrie in her room practicing her telekinetic ability and a normal young girl in her room practicing masturbation. I had not thought of this, but once it is pointed out, duh. Of course. I do remember making a similar connection during the third (fourth?) Harry Potter movie, when Harry is under his covers practicing with his wand. Hey, what can I say; I get being a masturbating young boy, whereas I have no experience with being a masturbating young girl. (I'm also curious to see if including those phrases in this post gets me some Google hits I might not otherwise have gotten. If so, welcome, perverts!)
- On the casting of Ansel Elgort: “I think we were lucky that Ansel" [is] "a very hunky, charming, sweet guy who really fits the bill in terms of" [being] "the boy who could take Carrie to prom" [who] "doesn’t seem menacing or narcissistic. And that was a real challenge; we looked at so many boys, and they just . . . if they were handsome, they really were narcissistic and self-involved, and" [Elgort] "really transcended that.” Again, this causes me to reappraise my thoughts on Elgort somewhat. I was initially a little unswayed by his goofiness, but when I consider the idea that Peirce wanted to avoid having Tommy seem either menacing (which would make us wonder why Carrie would trust him) or narcissistic (which would make us wonder why Tommy would capitulate to Sue's request), the goofiness -- which, to be fair, is very natural and mostly charming -- all of a sudden seems more palatable. It also serves to distinguish him from William Katt, who played the role so well in DePalma's version.
- Due to child-labor restrictions on the amount of hours Moretz could work in a day, there were many shots in which Peirce played Carrie opposite Moore while getting the Margaret coverage for scenes!
- Peirce points out something I'd forgotten: the use of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning" is a direct lift from the novel, which references Margaret listening to the song. Awesome!
There is plenty more, too. It's a great commentary track; Peirce is informative, not at all boring, and very obviously engaged by the material. Too bad for you, DVD purchasers. By the way, you'll also have no access to a short collection of deleted scenes, which includes Billy and Chris speeding through town like maniacs in a scene that leads up to Chris asking Billy to help her do something about Carrie. You also won't see Carrie and Tommy kiss at the prom, or Chris and Tina kiss on Chris's bed when Billy suggests it. Nor will you see the scene of young Carrie seeing her neighbor sunbathing, which leads to a rain of stones.
Most of this should have been left in the movie, as far as I'm concerned; the rain-of-stones scene doesn't work, but the others are very good indeed.
Ah, but there is plenty more deleted material than that! Not on the DVD, granted; but not on the Blu-ray, either. In fact, there seems to be quite a lot of material that was filmed but never used.
And THAT, my friends, will be the subject of the next Carrie post I make. If'n you're so inclined, you can head over to Talk Stephen King, where there is a fine writeup about the subject.
But I can't resist flapping my gums about it, so I won't!
See you then, lads 'n' lasses.