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Alienation invasion

Global Times (2013-10-25 P20)
By Reuters
Chloe Grace Moretz stars in <em>Carrie</em> as the high school misfit. Photo: IC

Chloe Grace Moretz stars in Carrie as the high school misfit. Photo: IC

After a summer of superhero action and feel-good animated comedies, Hollywood has turned to forlorn figures to head the fall-winter fare at the box office with films that explore existential dilemmas faced by isolated characters.

The fall-winter months are traditionally when film studios release their top dramas to beat the end-of-year Oscars deadline and build buzz heading into the Hollywood awards season. This year, Hollywood is banking on the socially alienated.

Loners, dreamers, misfits and outcasts show up in fantastical comedies such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller Gravity, Kimberly Peirce's remake of Stephen King's high school horror Carrie, and the big screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card's 1985 sci-fi tale of young people in warfare Ender's Game.

Walter Mitty, a fictional character from a 1939 short story by James Thurber, defines a person not comfortable in his own skin or surroundings, alienated by idealistic aspirations.

Ben Stiller, the actor and director of Walter Mitty, due in theaters on Christmas, said he felt people would latch on to Mitty's inability to connect to the world around him.

"There was something very accessible and relatable about the idea of a guy who exists more in his head and isn't able to be who he wants to be," he said.

Stiller's Mitty is a Life magazine employee, handling the film negatives of Life's photo archive and embarking on a fantastical journey to find a missing photograph that would go in the final issue before the publication moves online.

"He's an analog guy in a digital world. That change is something generational, I can relate to that and I feel a lot of people will relate as well," Stiller said.

Mitty's challenge in accepting a changing world is echoed in Spike Jonze's Her, due out in limited theatrical release in December. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer who develops a relationship with a female-speaking computer system. The film highlights the increasing disconnect among people as technology brings people together virtually, but segregates them physically.

The social insecurity and alienation also reflects the financial and economic insecurity that occurred in recent years and has worked its way into today's films, said Jack Epps Jr, screenwriter of blockbusters Top Gun and Dick Tracy and a professor at the University of Southern California.

"A lot of these films represent the cubicle man and the repressed individual," Epps said. "That's thematically America pushing against these things, this small person in this global corporate workplace."

Carrie, out in theaters last week, is a classic tale of social isolation and revenge as misfit Carrie White wreaks havoc at her prom after being bullied.

The journey of a lonely character continually offers fertile ground for Hollywood writers, Epps said.

Director Peirce offered, "In most people's lifetimes, they have been the outcast or the marginalized or the alienated. I think we're all constantly in a state of being alienated and wanting to come back into a state of wholeness."

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