Law Review: Carrie
Moviegoers need not go far to find on-screen cruelty. Monstrous villains are common enough in modern cinema. From gangsters to pirates, and enhanced interrogators to amateur torturers, the characters in recent films provide more than their fair share of interpersonal violence. Every once in a while, though, a movie reminds us that few monsters can be as vicious as a teenager. Carrie is such a film.
In Carrie, Kimberly Peirce’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic horror novel, Chloë Grace Moretz stars in the title role that Sissy Spacek made famous in 1976. Although Ms. Peirce’s film will likely not enjoy the critical or box office success that the first Carrie received, Chloë Grace Moretz may be on her way to an acting career that rivals or exceeds Spacek’s. Ms. Moretz plays Carrie White like a girl who has a storm within her. Even when her rage unfurls itself in deadly violence against the just and unjust alike, viewers never stop rooting for Carrie, and it is unlikely that they will stop rooting for Ms. Moretz any time soon.
Julianne Moore plays Carrie’s mentally disturbed mother, Margaret White. A self-styled fanatic, Margaret is prone to mumbling pseudo-Christian incantations, which are apparently a salve for her phobias and a gloss for her conscience as she expresses her psychosis through child abuse and self-mutilation. Moore, as expected, is positively creepy in the role. Judy Greer, a gifted comic actress, takes a serious turn here as Carrie’s gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin. Compared to most of the other characters, Greer’s Desjardin is a charming relief as she stands up for Carrie and gives the unfortunate girl the only real mothering she has ever known.
It is not much of a spoiler to say that Carrie’s high school ends up having an altogether lousy prom. The movie’s advertisements, like the ones for the original film, depict Carrie in a blood-drenched dress, her flower corsage dripping with gore. Some viewers, aware of Ms. Moretz’s work as an action star, may expect to see the film end in a cataclysm of epic destruction. Unfortunately, anyone expecting an earth-shaking denouement will probably be disappointed, as will anyone looking for an insightful message about the film’s weighty subjects of bullying and fanaticism. This Carrie, like the films and novel that preceded it, is ultimately not much more than a revenge fantasy—the sort of thing that bullying victims might daydream about.
The enduring inhumanity of teenage bullies is one reason why Ms. Peirce’s Carrie is a remarkably current narrative even though the director and her screenwriters made only minor changes to the forty-year-old story. Decades of efforts by parents, educators, and other concerned parties have not alleviated the scourge of bullying, which endures despite the enactment of laws specifically targeted at preventing or reducing it. The inability of anti-bullying laws to eradicate the problem should not be surprising when we consider that a lot of bullying behavior was illegal long before the phenomenon became an issue of national concern. Even in King’s 1974 novel, one of the characters says, while preparing to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on Carrie’s head, “This is criminal assault, you know? They don’t fine you. They put you in jail and throw the key over their shoulder.”
The criminal laws did not deter Carrie’s fictional tormentors, nor have they prevented countless real-world children from becoming victims of bullying in the decades since. Some anti-bullying measures, however, have apparently been successful. A 2011 Department of Justice study found that bullying decreased significantly between 1999 and 2010, which coincided with a general drop in violent crime involving students. The same report noted, however, that cyber bullying has arisen as a prominent threat as physical bullying has decreased. In response, state governments have taken various measures against cyber-bullies, including charging perpetrators with serious crimes.
“You haven’t killed yourself yet?” a fourteen-year-old girl allegedly asked twelve-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick in an online post. “Go jump off a building.” Rebecca jumped to her death from an abandoned concrete plant on September 9th. One month later, the same fourteen-year-old allegedly posted a message on Facebook confirming that she had bullied Rebecca and stating that she did not care. Local authorities arrested the fourteen-year-old and a twelve-year-old alleged accomplice on charges of felony aggravated stalking. In describing the accused fourteen-year-old’s demeanor, County Sheriff Grady Judd said she was, “very cold, had no emotion at all upon her arrest.”
Carrie also stars Gabriella Wilde and Portia Doubleday. It is rated “R” for bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and some sexual content. It is one hour and forty minutes long. It will probably appeal to fans of the original film and other dark bullying revenge fantasies like Chronicle. It will probably not appeal to viewers who are seriously disturbed by depictions of violence involving children.
–by Austin Murnane, Entertainment Columnist