Sunday, June 23, 2013

80s Revisited: Firestarter

Firestarter (1984)
Directed by Mark L. Lester; screenplay by Stanley Mann; produced by Frank Capra Jr. and Martha de Laurentiis.

Here's the thing with Firestarter: I never remember anything about this movie except that Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott are in it. It was produced during a massive run of movies based on Stephen King novels, and so many of those are just so much better, that this one gets completely overlooked by me. I've seen it a few times in my life--of course, because Drew Barrymore is in it and I've been in love with her since I was 6 years old--but nothing about it ever really holds in my head. So when I saw it show up on the Encore schedule, I decided to sit and watch it and see if I could rediscover something I had missed. Or at least had kept forgetting about.

And you know what?

That was literally four months ago. I had completely forgotten until today that I had seen it again. Once more, nothing really held in my mind at all. It just goes right through me.

Oh, there are things I liked about it. Drew, for one, is adorable even though she's directed in kind of an "aw, what a cute kid" manner. I like the way she and George C. Scott have their relationship which turns into a cruel trick to earn her trust--something that might have had much more impact if we were caught by surprise with it; knowing he's playing her the whole time lessens its dramatic impact. I liked Art Carney, but I always like Art Carney. David Keith does the best he can with a pretty silly approach to the story; every time he puts his hands up to his head and we hear the weird noise effects to indicate he's using his mind powers, I kept wanting to see the words MIIIIIIIND POWERSSSSS!!!! at the bottom of the screen. Wouldn't be any more over the top. Same with Drew and the way they turn the fans on her when she goes all pyro. I'd forgotten Martin Sheen and Heather Locklear were in it.

I've never read this particular King novel. I probably have a copy somewhere with Drew on the cover, so maybe I will one day. He wrote it around the same time as The Dead Zone, which is a great book and a much better movie than this one. I think there are the seeds of a decent movie in here that never got made and probably never will. Quit redoing Carrie--de Palma got that right the first time--and take another crack at this one.

This movie, it's just like filler to me. You know how, when you're hungry but you don't have time to grab a meal, you just eat some kind of snack and then you instantly forget you ever ate it? That's what this flick is like. The director next went on to make Commando, and the screenwriter next went on to work on Conan the Destroyer, two more filler movies.

I wonder if, in a bit, I'll forget I ever wrote this post.

1 comment:

Tallulah Morehead said...

Firestarter, unfortunately, follows King's medeocre novel quite closely. If you want to tell someone not to redo Carrie tell King, because's he's the one who basically recycled his own earlier plot. Yes, the film is a mess.

Regarding this point: "I like the way she and George C. Scott have their relationship which turns into a cruel trick to earn her trust--something that might have had much more impact if we were caught by surprise with it; knowing he's playing her the whole time lessens its dramatic impact."

I fully disagree. Just the reverse. Hitchcock told Trauffaut that if a family is eating dinner at a table and a bomb goes off, you get a nice, two-second shock. But if you show the audience the bomb at the beginning of the scene, then you have suspense. Same here. If the audience was a conned along with "Charlie," you'd have a nice, short surprise. But because the audience knows he's conning her all along, there is suspense. "What will happen when Charlie finds out?" The audience gets to hate the vile character Scott is playing, and enjoy his operatic death even more.

Of course, Scott is horribly miscast as an American Indian.

Anyway, trust me, the book is every bit as bad as the movie.