A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"What did Carrie White ever do to you?"
That question is asked more than once in "Carrie," and it cuts to the heart of this new adaptation. Where Brian DePalma's 1976 version of Stephen King's novel was a teenage girl's nightmare as seen through the eyes of a straight male voyeur, this one looks through a wider lens, and strikes more universal notes of sympathy. (Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers ahead.)
This Carrie White (played by Chloë Grace Moretz of the "Kick-Ass" films) is more conventionally pretty than the scrawny, big-eyed misfit played by Sissy Spacek in DePalma's classic. Her gawkiness is internalized. It's a product of her horrid home life, and the knowledge that she has undefined powers that make her different from other kids, and that they're flowering along with the onset of puberty, and that her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore) sees them as signs of evil, rather than world-changing human potential. In this scenario it does not matter whether Carrie is conventionally "pretty" or "not pretty." Because Carrie is an abused child, she feels ugly; because she feels ugly, she radiates a sense of worthlessness.
Carrie's body-shame was handed down by her mom, who's first seen in a prologue giving birth to Carrie, then briefly considering killing her with the same scissors she will ultimately use to cut the cord. (Peirce's staging of the birth—complete with first-person shot of the infant's soft head resting on bloody sheets—is original, and Moore's acting has a silent-movie purity.) In contrast to DePalma's version, Carrie's mom seems less a standard-issue, frothing-at-the-mouth "religious nut" movie character than a mentally ill single mom, eking out a living as a seamstress and dry cleaner. Moore's Margaret is a purely pitable figure who scratches and cuts her own flesh, and who cannot love herself, let alone a child. As far as Carrie knows, this is a normal home life.