Updated: Oct 31, 2019
While I’m not saying that the 2013 film is the best adaptation, I feel it better captures what I love about the book and is a great film in its own right.
Director Kimberly Peirce goes for a more realistic tone, with warm lighting and a soft score by Marco Beltrami. She downplays the eroticism from the De Palma film, there’s no nudity and scenes with the girls in swimsuits, gym kit and even a sex scene with Tommy and Sue are portrayed in a non-fetish way.
Peirce focuses on Carrie’s coming-of-age, showing her growth in confidence as the film goes on. Adding in aspects of a superhero (or even a supervillain) origin story, with Carrie practicing and developing her telekinesis and using the powers as a metaphor for her growth and femininity. Carrie uses her telekinesis to even do mundane things, which could serve as a metaphor for addiction.
This film is updated with mobile phones and social media, which are actually used to enhance the story. Chris films the shower incident and posts it online which is a reference to cyber-bullying which is a big problem in today’s society.
This helps carry the bullying issues throughout the film. After the video is posted online people laugh at Carrie where ever she goes and those who aren’t laughing still look at her. It also backfires on Chris when her father tries to appeal for her prom privileges back but she refuses to hand over her phone when asked, knowing she’ll be caught.
It’s also very effective when the video is shown again after the blood dump adding that extra layer of unspeakable cruelty and humiliation. I love the other ways that keep the bullying consistent, like the English teacher picking on her, and yes some teachers are actually like this and it’s disgusting.
Chloe Grace Moretz gives a stellar performance as Carrie, she nails the awkward feeling to be around other people, shrugging her shoulders, folding her arms, hesitate, etc. I also loved watching her grow with confidence as the film goes on. Early in the film, when she angrily tells her mother why she’s wrong about the Bible and why she didn’t sin but her mother did, it shows how strong she can be.
I love seeing bits of Carrie’s dark side, like knocking the knife on the floor to scare her mother and that smile on her face as she does it. She’s also quite likable, Moretz has got a lot of charm in- her facial expressions and line deliveries that you would like to interact with her.
I also feel they were successful in making her look awkward compared to the other teenage girls, for example, she looks younger than them which works because Carrie is a late bloomer, it’s easier to buy that we’re watching a girl become a teenager.
Her massive rage is like revenge-fantasy as she lets out all of her anger, using her hands to orchestrate. There’s a look of satisfaction on her face as it happens, and when it’s over and reality sinks in and she stares at her hands like Lady Macbeth.
Portia Doubleday was perfect as the evil bully Chris, incredibly convincing as the school Queen Bee as being sociopathic. But has little subtle moments of humanity that stops her from cardboard cutout. Gabriella Wilde brings warmth and compassion to Sue, who feels guilty for hurting Carrie and wants to atone for her actions. Ansel Elgort brings a lot of personality to Tommy, very likable and has great chemistry with Moretz. Alex Russell is suitably cast as Chris’ abusive boyfriend Billy. Judy Greer is lovely as Miss Desjardin, the perfect mother-figure that Carrie really needed.
But it’s Julianne Moore who steals the show as Margaret, and WOW she was terrifying! She’s not just an overly religious person, she’s someone with serious mental health issues. It’s heavily suggested she doesn’t understand Christianity very well as she mentions things that aren’t even in the Bible. In most of her scenes, we see her self-harming in disturbing ways, such as scratching her arms and jamming seam-ripper into her thigh. I like that she has little moments that make her believable as a human, like driving a car and having a job.
The portrayal of Carrie and Margaret’s relationship is pretty fascinating, Margaret clearly loves her daughter and wants to be a good mother. But is incredibly abusive to her, believing it’s for Carrie’s own good to save her from sin. Desperate to preserve Carrie’s innocence, making her wear homemade dresses and plaits her hair to keep her looking and feeling like a child.
I love some of the nods the book - Margaret listens to Let The Lower Lighter Be Burning and I love the added touch of having her sing along to it. When Chris makes an online profile for Carrie, Billy suggests Blood Sport as her favorite film, which is the title of Part 1 in the book.
This adaptation does borrow a lot from De Palma’s version, such as a certain character’s death being identical and Sue’s attempt to put stop to Chris’s prank but is kicked out by Miss Desjardin who thinks Sue is trying to sabotage Carrie. However, these are changes I was fine with in De Palma’s film and I find they work just as well here and are even handled a little better.
Overall I love this film and I feel it does justice to the book, I think Peirce delivers King’s message and social commentary by adding in the cyber-bullying.
Written by Jack Parish