Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Screen Gems
The world came very close to never learning the name Carrie White. As Stephen King buffs likely know, the writer tossed the original manuscript that would become his debut novel in the trash, decrying it as unworthy of the public eye. It was King's wife Tabitha who fished the story out of the garbage and demanded that he bring it to life, resulting not only in the 1974 epistolary book to which the horror fiction readers of America become so fond, but Brian De Palma's classic horror thriller and this week's long-awaited remake courtesy of director Kimberly Peirce.
Maintaining such a prominent legacy in literature and film, the chilling tale of Carrie was a risky one to take on for Peirce and her team. But this new Screen Gems production didn't set out to live up to or even surpass De Palma's Carrie — it's mission was to tell its own story. While the '76 picture might have spent the majority of its time in Carrie's high school, the 2013 iteration's star Chloe Grace Moretz assures us that hers is "a darker, more twisted version that really focuses on the mother-daughter relationship and really mines that out, which is our main focus."
With themes specific to womanhood and the passage into it, having Peirce take on the project from a female perspective is bound to instill the new Carrie with ideals some might have felt De Palma's feature was left wanting. Peirce says, "In reading the book, what I fell in love with was this mother-daughter story that was so amazing and so profound. What is a mother? A mother is somebody that's willing to sacrifice themselves for a child. And that's really what Margaret is. Margaret loves her daughter to no end. There's never a moment in the book or the movie where Margaret is not acting out of love and protection of her daughter."
"So yes, absolutely for me that mother-child relationship is really at the heart of the movie," the director continues. "There was a huge opportunity with [Moretz and Julianne Moore] that I have with the fundamental storytelling and the journey that Carrie and Margaret go on."
While Peirce didn't want to risk taking any due credit away from De Palma, her colleagues have no problem boasting the heightened sensitivity to the story that her being a woman affords this movie version of Carrie. Judy Greer, who plays Carrie White's gym teacher and hopeful savior, says, "I respect [Peirce's] ability to tell a story and I think that being a woman telling this story is interesting. I'm so glad a woman is directing this remake because I think that will add a lot to the storytelling. Even visually, what she sees and what's important to her as a woman, and as a director, I think will add something that we haven't seen in a movie before." Greer adds, "As a woman, I think she has so much sympathy for Carrie and I feel like she sees herself in Carrie in some way. I’ve never had this conversation with her, but it just feels that way listening to her direction and her passion for the project and telling the story and making sure that moment is really authentic. I think it’s really seeming to be a story a lot about this girl and less about the horror.
Producer Kevin Misher was also willing to concede that there is a special insight present in Peirce's remake, but chalked that up exclusively to her individual talent. "It's not only a ... generic female director," Misher says, "I think particularly Kim Peirce and her point of view on the world ... If you look at the angst that was driving the characters in Boys Don't Cry, and the fact that those characters lived on the fringe, a little bit, but with the desire to be in the middle, is sort of what drove us all in high school and what probably what drives all of us today. Everybody wants to feel, 'What’s normal? Where am I? How do I fit into the system?' I think that was what Kim was experimenting with in both her films, but probably more primally in Boys Don't Cry. It translates very well."
Even with a mind and an eye like Peirce's at the head of the project, it was a challenging process to bring the character to life...
Next: How Chloe Moretz Became Carrie
As you might imagine, transforming the confident, talented, and beautiful 16-year-old Chloe Moretz into the meek, fearsome, internally shattered 18-year-old Carrie White warranted more than a few line readings. "When I first met her, I said, 'We've got to beat that little confident person out of you,'" Peirce says of her star, continuing to reminisce on their early dialogue. "'You're walking the red carpet, you're working with Martin Scorsese [and] Tim Burton. The world loves you. Your family loves you. That's great for you as an individual, and you've got to hold on to that. But for this movie, we have to take all that confidence and security and personality and we have to put it over here. We have to take a hammer and we have to crack that, and then we have to make you sheltered, scared, a misfit, unusual, you've been beaten by your mother.'"
In order to achieve this vision of Carrie, Peirce had Moretz go to some pretty surprising lengths. "I feel like it's okay to share this, but I had her go to homeless shelters and had her really go deep inside the characterization to experience the fear, the humility, to really go on the journey," the director says. "We did that, I don't know, for two and a half months. She did it in LA, she did it [in Toronto] and we always were trying to make sure we showed respect to the people that were helping us. But for her to really see the other side of life, because I felt like that was essential to the character. That lack of confidence, it's everything. If you have a little alpha there, you've lost it."
Moretz recounts the difficult task as well: "I come from such a privileged life," the actress says, "and to go meet these people who have never known any semblance of love, and money, and life — what we go through every day, being able to go out to Whole Foods if you want to and buy an all-organic meal, they have never lived that. And I talked to these women who have been sexually abused and physically abused and verbally abused, and they're so strong. Even though they've had so much done to them, they're so strong, and you look into their eyes and you learn so much just from talking to them."
So devoted to creating an authentic character was Peirce that she asked Moretz to step even further away from her comfort zone. "I said to her, 'You actually have to go through something that you probably haven't gone through yet in your young life.' She hadn't been to prom, she hadn't done certain things. And I said, 'So we need to set off a teenage rebellion in your life.' And I actually said, 'You need to move out of your house.' And she was like, 'Okay, Kim. I'll do it.' She couldn't do it."
But of course, there were some less dramatic measures that Moretz also took to get into the dark mind of her role: "Do you know that Sia song "Breathe Me?" You know, it's super twisted, it's a dark song. You can really beat yourself up for that song and that’s definitely a major song that I listen to for this type of stuff. And "Fix You," [by] Coldplay. That one really gets me. Music is a large element in my life. And also pictures, family members, stuff like that. That's a major element to this movie."
Working together, the pair sought to create a Carrie White that was not only vivid and dense, but one that stood as a representation of something that has long been a terrible tragedy in our society, only recently earning due opposition.
Next: The Carrie Remake Takes on the Bullying Epidemic
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Screen Gems
One of the first things you think about when you consider a Carrie that takes place in 2013 is all of ways society has changed in the past 40 years, and how said changes would impact the way people feel about this type of story. Amidst a very present movement to knock down the pandemic of school bullying, the Carrie remake might hit even harder than the original.
Moretz speaks to this in discussing how many platforms allow for bullying in the modern era, and how this idea is executed in the new movie. "A large element of this movie is the bullying aspect," she says. "How Carrie is taken advantage of and made fun of just because of peoples' weaker selves [lead them] to push whatever their insecurities are onto someone who takes [abuse] from everyone. And yeah, there were a lot of things we brought into the script. We brought some social media aspects of it; that's stuff that actually happens on Facebook and Twitter ... Some things happen on a social network, [but] Carrie doesn't even realize it because she doesn't even know what Facebook is. At the same time, it's sweet that she's so unaffected by what they want to affect her with. But I think, honestly, the main point of the movie is Margaret and Carrie. I think that's the main pinnacle of her, it's her mother."
Anyone familiar with Peirce's resume knows that she is no stranger to engaging stories about the powers and traumas of bullying and interolance. "As a person alive in our world who has made a movie about bullying with Boys Don't Cry, and a movie about the war [Stop-Loss], that's just a thing that in my life I'm very aware of," Peirce says. "I'm not unaware of it. But at the same time, and the movie certainly reflects the reality of that, but the thing that drew me to the story — if it was only a bullying story, I don't think there would have been enough to make this kind of movie about. I think what ends up happening is that there's an authenticity and reality to the times it's happening in; that actually, De Palma was kind of ahead of his time. I think that the movie is coming out when this stuff is real, but I think the story itself is still a fantasy story, it's a superhero story, it's a supernatural story, it's a thriller and it has horror elements."
Greer, playing a conscientious teacher in the movie, has plenty to say on the issue. "Bullying was one of the things that made me interested as an audience member in watching this movie again," she says. "Had I not gotten the role, I would still have been excited to see it, and I think because now the take on it is bullying moreso than I remember the first time, that it was just kind of an outcast story, and that’s what made it interesting to me, and that’s why I think it’s a fresh perspective." Greer adds, "Becase bullying has really become such a problem right now, I think [the remake] is maybe going to be more impactful right now. Just because of where that is in society and how much more we're hearing about it. At least 35 years ago, you didn't have the Internet telling you every single thing that happened in every school and college around the world, but this seems to me — and maybe it’s because I know Chloe and I didn't know Sissy Spacek — but seeing the stuff happen to Chloe really breaks my heart and makes me feel really sad. It makes me feel sad to think of kids going through that. Just watching her performance in the shower scene is really heartbreaking."
For a classic film in a modern, progressive new lens, catch Carrie in theaters on Oct. 18.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
“Just make sure O’Leary doesn’t get on that train ” smalltime gangster Stef Czyprynski (Marcus Thomas) warns his gin-soaked mess of an uncle Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley). All the button man’s got to do is pop a rival mobster. But Frank passes out drunk and O’Leary (Dennis Farina) survives the night. That’s bad news for Frank’s boss (Philip Baker Hall) as O’Leary’s planning to muscle in on his turf. It’s worse news for Frank. He’s ordered to dry out or face the consequences. Taking with him a bottle of booze and a snow globe as a reminder of sweet home Buffalo Frank heads to San Francisco with no desire to sober up. He enjoys drinking as much as he enjoys killing. But he knows he must attend AA meetings. Even if he does occasionally slip back into his old drinking ways the change of scenery is good for Frank. He lands a job in a funeral home dressing corpses. He makes friends with his sponsor Tom (Luke Wilson). He even falls for Laurel (Tea Leoni) a go-for-broke TV ad exec who’s not fazed at the prospect of dating a cold-blooded killer. (Once he opens up Frank is er frank with everyone about what he does.) At this point You Kill Me unfolds as a sharply written but less noisy middle-aged version of Grosse Pointe Blank as Frank’s professional obligations begin to intrude on his personal commitments. And he’s not sure how to handle all this especially when he decides to return to Buffalo to make amends. Just when you thought Kingsley was now only in it for the money (BloodRayne and Thunderbirds anyone?) along comes a gem like You Kill Me. Upon first meeting Frank you dismiss him as a weak pitiful fool whose problems extend beyond his drinking. Without smoothing out Frank’s rough edges Kingsley unapologetically makes this hit man a complex and sympathetic figure deserving of a second chance. And whenever Frank is clean and sober Kingsley doesn’t make the mistake of blaming our antihero’s criminal actions on alcohol. Instead he portrays Frank as a regular Joe who happens to take great pride in a job he loves. He also mines great humor from Frank’s fish-of-out-water predicaments and his brutal honesty about himself though he never allows Frank to become the subject of ridicule. Kingsley and Leoni make an odd romantic couple but they play up their obvious differences to persuade us their love is real. Sure Laura’s desperate to find a man but Leoni chips away at her tough exterior to reveal that she really adores Frank and accepts him for who he is. An annoying bundle of nerves in just about everything she does Leoni finally manages to lower the shrill factor and let’s down her guard. Yes she still talks a mile a minute but Leoni for once is confident likeable and delightfully acerbic. Even Luke Wilson pulls himself out of his usual stupor and employs his wry wit to truly reflect the mixed feelings the audience harbors toward this nice-guy killer. Director John Dahl made a name for himself with several little-seen neo-noirs that masterfully combined knotty plots with a wicked sense of humor. Unfortunately he failed to live up to his potential after The Last Seduction and Red Rock West with only Rounders standing out from such recent disappointments as The Great Raid. But You Kill Me finds Dahl back in his element. He’s clearly more comfortable cozying up to society’s unsavory types than he is eulogizing heroic prisoners of war. You Kill Me though separates itself from Dahl’s earlier thrillers by being a fascinating and darkly comical character study rather than a cool calculated exercise in deceit and manipulation. As he explores the empty lives of a man and woman destined to become soul mates Dahl embraces and celebrates their flaws rather than judge them for their past actions. Some may find it hard to identify with a man who kills for a living so Dahl goes to great lengths to show Frank as just a working stiff in need of a hug and a kiss. Yes You Kill Me does tread heavily on Grosse Pointe Blank territory during Frank’s unorthodox courtship of Lauren. But Dahl can be forgiven for this transgression as he and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely provide a fresh and funny look at unconditional love. And thankfully Dahl resists the urge to fire too many guns. Washing the screen red with blood really would not have been in keeping with Frank’s preference for a swift clean kill.