Let me preface this review by saying one thing : Lou Reed died today, so not much else matters.
Seriously — in a world dominated by poseurs and phonies, Lou was the read deal. Avant garde before there was avant garde, glam before there was glam, punk before there was punk, new wave before there was new wave — Lou stayed six steps ahead of all trends by simply not giving a flying fuck about any of them and staying true to himself. Plus, he was quintessential New York in a way that just can’t be faked. In many ways, he was a mirror to the Big Apple’s other favorite creative son, Woody Allen — Woody’s world is one of stuffy academia, anally rententive dinner parties, emotionally distant family patriarchs and matriarchs, and lifeless and pretentious gallery openings, while Lou’s world wasn’t just the streets but the gutters : strung-out drag queens who will give head to strangers to earn enough for their next heroin fix; two-bit hustlers looking for a gullible mark from out of town; desperate AIDS patients freezing in the cold because they lost their homes, families, and jobs; kids fresh from the Port Authority bus terminal looking to hit it big but willing to do anything to get by in the meantime while secretly knowing from the outset that their dreams are never gonna come true.
In short, the kind of people Woody Allen tells stories about are outnumbered by the kind of people Lou Reed told stories about by a factor of about 1,000 to 1, but the rarified elites from planet Woody love to glamorize and pine for the kind of lives that folks on Planet Lou lived — unless, of course, they had to spend one night on the streets, outside the safe confines of their luxury condos, at which point their romanticized notions of life among the “unwashed” would dissipate in a hurry. They know that, of course, so they just “take a walk on the wild side” comfortably by purchasing framed photographs and paintings by down-and-out artists who may or may not become “the next big thing” but are, they know, quite likely living hand-to-mouth existences right now and probably always will.
Burroughs. Warhol. Basquiat. Reed. Our connection to that New York as it was is fading rapidly, isn’t it? Disney has cleaned up 42nd Street. The grindhouses are gone. Harlem has been Clintonized. And another link to the past was severed today, irrevocably. New York’s got class now, but it ain’t got soul. Characters like Alan Alda’s blowhard from Woody’s Crimes And Misdemeanors have won. Poverty and desperation are more widespread than ever, but they’re inside, keeping their mouths shut. And one of the last honest voices that chronicled the lives of the poor and desperate with no pretense, no bullshit, and no flinching is silent forevermore. Iggy Pop’s doing car commercials now, for Christ’s sake, and Debbie harry’s touring the casino circuit — all is lost.
And on that note, let’s talk about this new Carrie remake, shall we?
Competence shouldn’t be a dirty word, all things considered, but when it’s all a movie has going for it, is that really saying very much? Director Kimberly Peirce doesn’t really do anything new with Stephen King’s horror classic apart from giving the unfortunate title character a more lurid backstory, but it’s not like she’s done anything actively bad here, either. The story proceeds more or less along the lines of the original (and along the lines of the made-for-cable remake starring Angela Bettis), so hey — it’s a decent little horror tale, we all know that. Likewise, Chloe Grace Moretz turns in a respectable enough performance in the lead role, Julianne Moore takes a completely different tack with the elder White than did Piper Laurie but it really works, and among the supporting cast Gabriella Wilde deserves special mention for her nice turn as the well-enough-meaning-but-hopelessly-misguided Sue Snell.
Still — where’s the soul? Like the new, cleaned-up Manhattan, Carrie circa 2013 is an exercise in mere presentation, with no substance beneath it whatsoever. DePalma’s dramatics are nowhere to be found here, nor his shocks. This is a movie that knows we already know the story and proceeds accordingly. “Just don’t fuck things up” seems to be all the more that Peirce and company were aiming for here, and as a result that’s all we get — a movie that gets in, does the job, and gets out.
Little touches like having Carrie make her prom dress herself make sense, but serve no real purpose in terms of broadening our understanding of the character or her situation, much less get us to go so far as to re-evaluate either — and adding camera phones to the infamous shower scene at the beginning don’t so much as “modernize” the proceedings as they draw attention to the fact that elements are being tacked on her for the sake of — well, nothing, I suppose.
So — we come back to competence again. Lou Reed wasn’t a “good singer” in any conventional sense of the term, but man, he was in there. He lived and breathed the kind of life he wrote songs about. He brought the same kind of immediacy to his work that Brian DePalma brought to Carrie in 1976. And that’s what’s missing here in Perice’s cold, clinical, by-the-numbers remake. That doesn’t make this new version a bad one, I guess, as I said — but it does make it a pointless one. This has all been done before, and been done a whole lot better, so — why bother?
But again — none of this matters all that much. Lou Reed died today. I’m wasting your time — and mine — by talking about anything other than that.