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Serving up some revenge

 Posted: 2:00 AM October 24, 2013

"Carrie" has had numerous incarnations since it debuted in 1974 as Stephen King's first commercially successful novel and made into an acclaimed film in 1976, directed by Brian De Palma.

At the center of the narrative is a high school girl, Carrie (first portrayed by Cissy Spacek and now by Chloë Grace Moretz), a shy, withdrawn teenager. She exists on the fringes of school, dressed in drab, homemade clothes, shoulders hunched forward, eyes averted, her expression conveying an abiding desire to simply disappear.

While appearing atypical — far from the trendy, smartphone, athletic, mainstream kids who dominate any high school campus — she also is typical, the quintessential, awkward and self-tormented adolescent who is convinced she can never fit in.

Carrie

99 min

Rated R

The Fifth Estate

124 min

Rated R

And though this is a story that was originally conceived as one of final horror, I would argue that the screenwriters, and the director, Kimberly Peirce, had an opportunity to make Carrie more contemporary and interesting by focusing on what drives the film, which is not Carrie's telekinetic powers, powers she uses in a violent, vengeful climax, but that she is unmercifully bullied by what are often called the "mean girls" (though it isn't just the girls who are cruel and lacking even a semblance of empathy, but also the students in general).

To be sure, Carrie also was the victim of her mother, Margaret (played superbly by Julianne Moore), who is gripped by a deranged and unhinged religiosity. When Carrie protests her mother's biblical edicts, Margaret locks her in a small closet, with just enough light to read the Bible and contemplate the temptations inherent in being a young woman who has just experienced her first menarche.

Perhaps King's novel was far more prescient than just a supernatural examination of the struggles that define adolescence. Bullying is ever with us, constantly in the headlines — recently a young Florida girl committed suicide by jumping off the town's high water tank after enduring a year of unremitting harassment. This behavior, in all its complexity, is something that the remake of "Carrie" could have examined more closely.

The reality is that for some teens, high school is a place not of incandescent, youthful memories that will endure for a lifetime, but of pain, a rite of passage that often can be unendurable. And though they may wish for the defensive powers of Carrie, far too often they are left to face their tormentors alone while struggling with a sense of consuming helplessness, compounded by a social media that becomes a harrowing source of antipathy.

While Carrie's telekinetic powers make for a dramatic climax, her catastrophic revenge is not just anachronistic but, in truth, beside the point.

"The Fifth Estate"

The Fourth Estate refers to the news media, or more traditionally "the press," deemed so essential to our democracy that it was thought of as a fourth branch of government.

The film "The Fifth Estate" concerns a new form of news media, driven by technology wherein data are disseminated online, instantaneously, using computers and smartphones and iPads.

In "The Fifth Estate," Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rogue player who righteously uses protected whistleblower information to bring down corrupt banks and government. He calls his site WikiLeaks and enlists the help of Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl), another computer wizard/reporter. Together, they charge any available windmill using the power of inside information and the net.

The questions posed by the film are mildly interesting, though overall it's a bit of a mess. But it's hard for the screenwriters to make characters interesting who spend an inordinate amount of time staring at computer screens while carrying laptops from room to room as if they were scimitars.

While "The Fifth Estate" is, essentially, a docudrama, and WikiLeaks has become known worldwide, it also is evident that Assange was not just on a mission framed by the constraints and responsibilities established by the Fourth Estate, but was a man in search of ego-driven fame and power. A man who considered any kind of editing as anathema to his new brand of journalism. He believed in the information dump, absent redaction, ignored fact-checking, and rejected the idea of unintended consequences.

He becomes, by the end of the film, tedious and unsympathetic, as does "The Fifth Estate."

— Chris Honoré


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