Car­rie di­rec­tor Kim­berly Peirce re­makes a mod­ern clas­sic, writes Carla Meyer

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE’S some­thing about Car­rie White, the awk­ward, tele­ki­netic teenager from Stephen King’s 1974 novel Car­rie, that keeps in­spir­ing vis­ual in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

Brian De Palma’s 1976 film, which fea­tures Os­carnom­i­nated per­for­mances by Sissy Spacek as Car­rie and Piper Lau­rie as her un­hinged mother, seems a de­fin­i­tive work. But producers see more to mine.

Car­rie: The Mu­si­cal, which flopped on Broad­way in 1988, was re­cently re­tooled for off-Broad­way and Seat­tle runs. In 1999, Amy Irv­ing played a grown-up ver­sion of Sue Snell – her nice-girl char­ac­ter from the 1976 film – in the movie se­quel The Rage: Car­rie 2. In 2002, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son played Car­rie’s mother in a TV adap­ta­tion.

The new­est ven­ture is the most se­ri­ous post-De Palma Car­rie. Se­ri­ous be­cause it was di­rected by ac­claimed in­de­pen­dent film­maker Kim­berly Peirce, who di­rected 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry and the less-seen but af­fect­ing 2008 Iraq war drama Stop-Loss.

Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the tit­u­lar role with Ju­lianne Moore as her mother, Mar­garet.

In craft­ing her film, Peirce worked from King’s book and from the De Palma film. Though her film stays true to both sources, it’s also set in the present day.

Peirce says she views King’s frac­tured com­ing-of-age tale as ‘‘time­less and timely’’, its themes of alien­ation and self­dis­cov­ery lend­ing them­selves eas­ily to to­day’s tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced world.

Pierce en­tered the project as­sum­ing most peo­ple who will see this Car­rie have not seen the De Palma film. Re­search screen­ings bore this out. But peo­ple who have seen the orig­i­nal will pick up Peirce’s homages to De Palma via slow­mo­tion shots and the mus­cle car driven by teen hot­head Billy (Alex Rus­sell). The car evokes the one John Tra­volta drove when he played Billy in the 1976 movie.

With fun­da­men­tal­ist re­li­gion ris­ing in vis­i­bil­ity in the US since the first film’s re­lease, Pierce be­lieves pre­sent­ing Mar­garet White as a wing-nut, the way she was in the orig­i­nal, would have car­ried more po­ten­tial to of­fend.

‘‘You had to be very care­ful how you rep­re­sented Mar­garet as a re­li­gious per­son in or­der to show due re­spect to re­li­gion and to char­ac­terise her ac­cu­rately,’’ Peirce says.

‘‘That is why it is so great that King (in his novel) gave us per­mis­sion to make it very spe­cific. It was a very safe road be­cause (Mar­garet) has cre­ated her own re­li­gion.

‘‘In our film, we added a new line where Car­rie says, ‘That’s not even in the Bi­ble’ (to her mother). Mar­garet has made it up. . . . She is in her own world.’’

New tools for tor­ment­ing: Car­rie still wears fig­ure-hiding, era-un­spe­cific baggy clothes sewn by her seam­stress mother. But her fel­low teens wear more mod­ern fash­ions, carry mo­bile phones and up­load video to so­cial me­dia.

‘‘Life has rad­i­cally changed . . . rad­i­cally-rad­i­cally in the last five,’’ Peirce says.

‘‘We have cell­phones, we are al­ways tak­ing a pic­ture, we are al­ways record­ing video. We of­ten times are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing and are com­pelled to be record­ing it on some level. It’s just not enough to just ex­pe­ri­ence it.’’

The mean be­hav­iour di­rected to­ward Car­rie in the novel and De Palma film be­comes even more pub­lic in the new Car­rie, when her school­mate Chris (Por­tia Dou­bleday) up­loads to so­cial me­dia some video footage of Car­rie shot dur­ing a heart­break­ing mo­ment.

‘‘There’s now an un­der­stand­ing that kids tor­ment other kids, and that tor­ment­ing is video­taped, and that tor­ment­ing can make it online,’’ says Peirce.

This un­der­stand­ing leads to in­ven­tive dis­ci­plinary meth­ods. A teacher (Judy Greer) who has be­come aware of Chris’s nasty be­hav­iour for­bids the girl from at­tend­ing the prom. When Chris threat­ens le­gal ac­tion, the teacher prom­ises to ex­pose Chris on the To­day show as the source of the up­loaded video. Chris backs down.

Stu­dents’ online cru­elty to­ward other stu­dents can ‘‘make the teach­ers and the prin­ci­pals look bad but also can make the tor­men­tors look bad’’, Peirce says.

Car­rie opens to­day.

Chloe Grace Moretz (left) and Ju­lianne Moore in a scene from horror thriller film Car­rie.

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