Throughout “Carrie,” the shadow of Margaret White (Julianne Moore) looms large over teenage titular character (Chloë Moretz). Carrie, homeschooled until she reached high-school age, has spent every day under her domineering, deeply religious and paranoid mother’s thumb, afraid of sex, of her own body, and a victim of a world that doesn’t understand her.
But when Carrie discovers that she has psychic powers — just as her puberty kicks in at the start of the film — the dynamic between mother and daughter shifts and Margaret finally fears her daughter, culminating in a bloody confrontation in the film’s final act.
“It was about unleashing these two brilliant actors,” director Kimberly Peirce told MTV News. “Grounding them in reality, and having them just come at each other as hard as they could.”
Peirce sees the scene as a bookend to the opening of the film, what she describes as the start of the “duel and the love story” between Carrie and Margaret. “That’s the spine of the movie, so that it’s constantly escalating, constantly escalating,” she says, “until the scene [...] where they come head-to-head.”
“Stephen King kind of gives you this wonderful backstory where he talks about how Margaret was an outcast in her own family, she was considered an oddball,” Julianne Moore said of her character, who joins a religious cult but leaves after finding it “too liberal for her.”
Margaret lives her life like an eternal penitent, cutting and debasing herself (and torturing her daughter) for a version of God that is wrathful and bereft of kindness. In fact, when we first meet her, Margaret is convinced that she’s dying of some divine retribution for sleeping with the man who is Carrie’s father. But we quickly learn that’s not the case in one of the film’s most wrenching scenes (which, in turn, tells you everything you need to know about the future of Carrie and Margaret’s relationship).
When asked to contrast her character with Moretz’s, Moore says that it’s Margaret’s lack of curiosity in the world that defines her.
“You know, Margaret is somebody whose behavior is very circumscribed by her lack of interest and lack of sanity,” she said. “Carrie is somebody who has managed, against all odds, to be in the world, who wants to be in the world — even says to her mother, ‘I’m not like you, mama.’”
“Carrie” is in theaters now.