There’s not a lot you can do with Stephen King’s “Carrie” that director Brian De Palma didn’t do already. His 1976 adaptation is by turns funny, bloody, deeply felt and, best of all, pervy. The 2013 iteration is only two of those things: bloody and deeply felt. Those are two good attributes to have, and certainly one more than were found in the many cynical attempts to wring extra cash from King’s debut, including a sequel, a TV movie and a stillborn Broadway spectacular (since reclaimed as a camp object).
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This is a problematic adaptation, one a bit too faithful, though less to the novel than to De Palma’s film. It hits that version's every beat, but director Kimberly Peirce — making only her second film since 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry” — isn’t mad about cinema (and cinema history) like De Palma. Her version often chugs along as repressed, bullied teen Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) becomes fully aware of her apparent telekinetic abilities, just in time to wreak some furious, but never quite transcendent, vengeance. In De Palma’s hands, Carrie’s rage was so powerful it seemed to take over the filmmaking itself; here, she just kills a bunch of people. (And flies.)
Moretz, 16, is a year younger than the character she’s playing. (The original Carrie, Sissy Spacek, was 27.) Technically she should be a touch older; movie high schoolers always should be, as De Palma knew better than anyone. Carrie’s chief tormentor is played by a scene-stealingly game Portia Doubleday, who’s 25 and brings with age a certain polish the other kid actors lack. But Moretz’s innate innocence works for the film. She’s a real outsider — too short, still a bit gawky. Moretz is a wisecracking psychopath in the “Kick-Ass” franchise, but she has an earnest, wide-open face. It’s what gives her pig’s blood–soaked rampage needed ballast.
There could be more of religious nutcase mom (Julianne Moore), but Peirce is a touch more empathetic than past adapters. In the only worthy deviation from the original film, Moore gives the character moments of reflection. As with “Boys Don’t Cry,” Peirce’s allegiance is with the outcasts: Rather than a robotic stereotype, mom’s a (still dangerous) woman eaten away by major trauma and misdirected beliefs. The film even opens not with the (in)famous locker room menstruation, but on a (still pretty lurid) solo home birth, establishing a connection between the two the film never quite breaks.This isn’t a definitive “Carrie,” but it is essential.
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore
3 (out of 5) Globes