We can’t really recommend seeing the new Carrie movie. EW’s Owen Gleiberman gave the film a B-. Your time would be better spent watching the original Carrie, or maybe looking up that kid who bullied you in high school’s Facebook page and playing a round of Poor Life Choices Schadenfreude.
But there was one scene in neo-Carrie that took me completely by surprise. The Evil Popular Girl played by Portia Doubleday has a meeting with the high school principal and Judy Greer’s gym teacher. Evil Popular Girl’s dad is there, too. He looks kind of familiar. He’s mean and egotistical and has the overall affect of a go-go ’80s Reaganaut who negotiates million dollar deals for breakfast. After staring hard at the guy for a minute, a sudden loud thought filled my brain: “Is that…Ellis?”
There are roles that define a whole era. There are roles that define a whole state of being. And then there is Hart Bochner as Harry Ellis, the ego-tastic rockstar demon lord of the Nakatomi Corporation.
In just a few scenes of Die Hard, Bochner-as-Ellis invents the ’80s and detroys the ’80s and revives the ’80s as self-parody. Pick your business-champion stereotype — Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe, Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psychos, Michael Lewis’s BSDs. Ellis is all that, and he’s also a more primal force. If you’re a dude, he’s the guy you want to be but also the guy who might be sleeping with your wife; if you’re a lady, he’s the guy who makes more than you, works less than you, and will never be punished for making drunken passes at you. He is a certain idea of America, running headlong into situations it doesn’t understand. “Sprechen ze talk?” He is another certain idea of America: Rich and loving it. Some people use a gun. He uses a fountain pen. What’s the difference?
Bochner’s cameo in Carrie is great. He briefly deepens our understanding of the Evil Popular Girl. He terrorizes the staff but also terrorizes his daughter; you can almost imagine that she is the daughter Ellis would’ve had, born into wealth and a lifetime of passive disregard from an absent father. He’s a little bit scary but also a little bit funny, and a breath of fresh air in Kimberly Peirce’s monotone-bland retelling. You wonder what the new Carrie would look like if it were all on Bochner’s wavelength — if it had the courage to push everything over-the-top. (Most Stephen King adaptations fail because they forget that King is always at least half-funny.) But you’re glad for the brief sign of life. He’s professional. He’s motivated. He’s happening.
Apparently, Bochner’s last two roles were as an evil white-collar criminal on Franklin & Bash and a billionaire with the billion-dollar name Julian Crest on Grey’s Anatomy. I choose to believe that, like Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, these are galactic variations on Ellis, that his spirit is forever smarming swaggerishly through some boardroom somewhere. He’s not the hero we need, but he’s the champion douche rocket we deserve. He’s a loudmouthed guardian, an unwatchful self-protector. A white knight.