the pitches

Title: firestarter
Directed by: tom ford
Starring: mckenna grace as Charlie, Nasim Pedrad as Dr. Smith, Giovanni Ribisi as Andrew.

We open on the exterior of an apartment complex in the 80s. A woman screams from inside, panicked, then shrill, then nothing. A man yells “Charlie!” and we see smoke billowing from an upstairs window. Shortly after a man exits the building with a young girl in his hands. They’re both blackened by smoke.

The camera follows him as he takes the girl away from the building. He keeps repeating “what have you done?” Other voices are shouting from inside and after the man sets the girl down he says to stay put, that he’s going back in to help the others. The camera stays on the little girl as people gather around and the fire department pulls in behind the crowd. She is remorseless and vacant. The roaring fire reflects in her eyes and we know she is the cause of the disaster.

She is the Firestarter.

5 years later. Charlie is 12 and recently returned to a group home. The children whisper how the last two foster families Charlie was with reported mysterious fires and kicked the young girl out of their homes. Charlie hears them and gets into a brawl.

A bush outside the window catches fire during the fight. The group home staff put out the fire and isolate Charlie. Dr. Smith visits the girl to let her know her case has been handed off to a specialist. Charlie is angered again, but Smith insists she wants to see the girl get help and she won’t let her go through any more alone.

We learn that Charlie’s mother was burned to death 5 years before and her father died from smoke inhalation. Smith is also curious what Charlie remembers about the fires that seem to follow her but seems afraid to push the issue.

When the specialist arrives to question Charlie, Smith is struck by the very serious nature of the visitors and the oddity of their questions. They seem more like police than childcare specialists, but they offer to take Charlie someplace that can handle her special needs. Before Smith can discover any more detail, the specialists sedate Charlie and take her away.

Charlie awakens in a private room but discovers she is free to roam her new accommodations. She and several other kids are on what appears to be a small college campus with green spaces and dorms and classrooms.

The staff is courteous and welcoming and the head of the facility tells Charlie they believe she is unique and deserves to be treated as such. Charlie, having grown up in the system however, is suspicious and questions the other students. Their stories are similar, abandoned, orphaned or plucked from juvenile prison, all told they are unique as well. They say the school is fine, but one of the boys says they take the kids away sometimes late at night, but no one that gets taken remembers anything.

As Charlie begins her own investigation of the school, Dr. Smith has reached a dead end with her childcare specialist contact, the one who came to visit Charlie at the group home. Smith looks into Charlie’s past to discover that her father may not be dead after all and she sets out to find him.

Charlie stays up to witness a young boy being escorted away by staff late at night. She follows them to a warehouse-like structure on the edge of the campus and sneaks in to see the boy inside a large, empty room. On the other side of a glass wall, lab-coat clad staff observe the kid as snakes are released. The boy is terrified, but a voice over a speaker tells him not to run. He has to confront the snakes. The boy ignores the instructions, but as he bangs on the door to be let out, the air around the boy begins to form crystals. He is soon encased in a crystalline orb the snakes can’t penetrate.

The next day Charlie finds the boy and asks him what it was all about and he looks at her as if she’s insane. He doesn’t remember a thing. Smith meanwhile has followed a trail from the hospital that treated Charlie’s father years earlier for smoke inhalation to a series of homeless shelters and then a prison. She goes to visit him and ask why he abandoned Charlie and what really happened with that fire. Andrew isn’t cooperative, but when she tells him Charlie has been taken by some mysterious government group and she’s worried, he is clearly upset.

That night, Charlie is the one taken by staff. She doesn’t resist and is in fact happy to follow along. It’s clear that the man leading her there has some hold over her, making her compliant. When she enters the large, open room, she screams.

“No snakes! Please!”

The staff is baffled by her knowledge and the man who led her in says she is unusual for sure. They continue with the experiment, and when snakes are released into the room, Charlie runs for the door just like the boy. Nothing shields her from their attack, however, and she gets bitten. She screams and turns in anger.

The snakes catch fire and turn to ash. The paint on the walls melts off and the glass dividing the staff and room warps from the heat. The staff panics and the man with the mental powers commands Charlie to stop. He tells her to forget what has happened and return to her room. He tells the others there’s more to this one than her abilities. Someone has already been inside the girl’s head.

Andrew is lying awake in his jail cell and we see a flashback to the opening scene. He crawls to Charlie standing outside the apartment and tells her to forget her abilities, that the fires aren’t her fault and she is just a normal girl. She’ll be safe if she just doesn’t know what she is capable of. When we come back to him, Andrew uses his mental abilities to convince a guard to let him out of jail and escort him to freedom.

Moving ahead, Andrew connects with Dr. Smith to track down Charlie. Charlie has nightmares of fire and her mother screaming. She, along with the other students, look into what’s happening at the school and discover they each have some ability and the people are trying to exploit it in some way through their experiments.

Andrew and Smith sneak into the school and find information that the government run facility is trying to weaponize the children. Andrew uses his mind control to find Charlie and they reunite. He clears her mind so she can remember the truth. When security swarms, they and the children use their powers to fight their way out. When Andrew is killed, Charlie goes on a rampage and burns everyone in her path.

Charlie and Dr. Smith lead the surviving kids away. A voiceover from Charlie lets us know they make a new home far away from society, someplace they can be themselves, someplace where the fires can’t spread.

Picture of Chris Sully

Chris Sully

Title: Firestarter
Directed by: paul mcguigan
Starring: raegan revord as Vicky Jones, Chace Crawford as Barry Jones, Felicity Jones as Veronica Jones

We open on young Vicky Jones as she gets ready for her first day of school. She’s headed into the 7th grade at her local intermediate school. She’s on the phone with a friend, trying to figure out what to wear. Eventually, they figure it out and she gets dressed and heads downstairs for breakfast. She’s met by her parents, who insist on a first day of school photo, and reluctantly gives in so they’ll quit pestering her.

Mom and dad are off to work and so she gathers her things and heads off to the bus stop. Along the way, she runs into some older girls she doesn’t recognize. As she walks past, one of them shoulder checks her and knocks her to the ground. They girl is MUCH larger than Vicky and clearly just wants to start something. Vicky pulls herself up off the ground and collects her bag & phone just in time to get on the bus. The larger girl and her friends make a couple of rude comments about her outfit and her hair as she steps up into the bus. She hesitates for a second, but decides it isn’t worth it and climbs up the remaining stairs.

Everything at school is pretty normal – Vicky catches up with friends in the hallway and asks about the start off their day, what teachers they got, the clothes their parents wouldn’t buy them for school, etc. We see her day progressively improve as she becomes more comfortable with her classes and surroundings.

At lunch time she catches up with a few friends who wave her over to their table. She’s a few bites into her sandwich when her new bully friend shows up and pushes her face into her food, angering Vicky, but she really can’t do anything. She’s too small – too weak. So she goes back to her meal, embarrassed and beyond pissed off.

Interactions like this occur for weeks, each pushing Vicky just a little further toward the edge. Each time, Vicky talks herself out of retaliation, but each time it takes a little more control to not lose her shit.

One day, she’s sitting in class when she begins to feel funny & asks to go to the bathroom.

She sits down on the toilet and that’s when the moment she’s dreaded for years happens – her first period.

She cleans up and exits the stall, hoping that she is lucky enough to run into someone with the proper ladies products to make the situation a little less awkward

Unfortunately she runs into the bully

The bully messes with her more and then notices a blood splotch. She makes fun of Vicky and calls attention to it

In a fit of anger, Vicky screams back at the bully “Leave me alone!” At that exact moment, the bully’s foot bursts into flames and she’s forced to run into one of the stalls and dunk her foot in the toilet to put it out.

Vicky uses that as an opportunity to flee. She has no idea what happened or where the fire came from, but she could help fight the feeling that she had somehow caused it. She felt so weird during the outburst against the bully – different than she ever had before – filled with rage!!

Several weeks go by without Vicky running into the bully again, but her luck runs out when takes a different path between classes one day and gets spotted in the hall. The bully tracks her down and threatens her again. Vicky feels the rage begin to swell inside her and she’s just about to scream again when her phone rings. She thought she had silenced it and they aren’t supposed to have their phones on during school hours, so her anger turns to panic as she attempts to locate and silence her phone.

Without looking in her backpack, she searches around inside and her hand lands on the side button to cancel the call, just as a teacher walks up. There are some weird looks between the bully, Vicky and the teacher and then, they all just kinda nod at one another and go their separate ways.

Later that day, as Vicky is leaving school and heading for the bus her phone rings again and she notices it is from the same number that had called her during  the interaction with the bully earlier that day. She answers it and there’s a strange voice on the other end. “Vicky? Have they found you yet?” Vicky replies “Who is this? Who are they?”

It’s about that time that a black SUV pulls up and several men in suits jump out. They approach Vicky and, as one of the men reaches out to grab Vicky, he falls down the ground, screaming in pain. The same happens to two other men as the approach. The remaining men jump back in the SUV and take off. The men on the ground bleed out from their eyes and ears and then quit moving. Vicky has no idea what is happening and begins to freak out. She decides to skip the bus and runs home.

She runs out of steam about halfway home and slows down. She had felt her phone vibrate several times, so she checks to see what the notifications were. There are texts from several of her friends and the top one reads “Have you seen this?” There is a video attached, showing the events from the bathroom several weeks earlier. Apparently another student had recorded and share the video online with the title “Fire started out of thin air.” Vicky’s name isn’t mentioned but here face is clearly shown.

Vicky rounds the corner to the street she lives on and notices that there are several more Black SUVs and men in suits coming out of her house. She ducks into some bushes and watches as the men walk in and out of the house with equipment. They are taking some sort of readings. She tries to call her parents, but they don’t answer. Her phone rings again, from that same weird number from before. She hits end and exits the bush to run AWAY from her home. She has no idea where she’s going, but she knows she doesn’t want to head anywhere near the men in suits.

As Vicky rounds the corner to leave her neighborhood, she spots a woman walking toward her. The woman makes eye contact and says “Vicky?” Startled, but somehow not frightened, Vicky cautiously says “Yes?” It’s then that we get a good look at the woman’s face and see that it is Drew Barrymore, playing a grown up Charlie.

“Vicky – I don’t want to alarm you. You’re in real trouble and I am here to help you. Those men want to take you away and I may the only person that can keep that from happening. I hoped this day would never come, but I’m…. well, I’m your mother” as she holds out her hand in a take my hand kind of way.

Vicky flashes back to the day her parents sat her down to explain to her that she was adopted and that her birth mother had died shortly after she was born. As she’s playing that day back in her head, the woman says “I’m sure you may not believe me, but I can prove it. You started a fire at school a few weeks ago. You don’t know how, but you started it when your emotions flared up.” Vicky is surprised that the woman knows about the fire, but there’s that video on the internet. As Vicky is about to the lady to leave her alone, the woman holds out her hand again, but this time there is a small ball of flame floating just above her hand. The woman throws the flame up in the sky and then catches it. The woman says “You have powers, like me. They’re genetic.”

Vicky is still somewhat hesitant, but hears or more-so feels the SUVs headed down the road. She goes with the woman. They get in the woman’s car and head off. During the ride, the woman reveals herself to be Charlie McGee. She explains how her parents (Vicky’s grandparents) had participated in an experiment during college and developed powers. Charlie had been on the run from the government for years and knew she couldn’t hide if she had a newborn baby with her, so she had given Vicky up for adoption, but under a fake name, so nobody would suspect that Vicky might have those same powers, or some version of them. Charlie had tried to stay close, in case Vicky’s powers ever surfaced.and was watching when the men in suits first approached her. Charlie used her powers to burn the men, but from the inside. She had learned to control her powers more over the years and developed a few tricks.

As they drive, more and more of what Charlie said made sense and, with a little direction Vicky was even able to test her fire power to light a piece of paper on fire. It was true, she really had powers!

Insert heartfelt conversations, sharing of family stories and a heavy training montage as Charlie teaches Vicky how to control her powers and tests to see what else Vicky can do. It turns out that Vicky can also read minds some and is getting better at it every day. At some point Vicky contacts her parents via a burner phone and lets them know that she is OK. She could tell that they were under duress and didn’t give up much info. She and Charlie also do a bit of recon and find that her parents are now being held at a facility nearby, which just so happens to be the home office of “The Shop,”: the organization that sponsored the original experiments on Vicky’s grandparents.

Vicky and Charlie hatch a plan to break out her parents and take down The Shop, but not before Charlie calls in a few friends that she met on her years on the run. It turns out there were others like her, who had developed powers and could help with their mission. These friends were also on the run and wanted to retaliate against the shop, so it wasn’t like they had to twist any arms.

A few weeks after the men tried to take Vicky, a small team of “powered” people entered the facility and walked out a few minutes later with a few extra recently-freed prisoners. There wasn’t much of a fight at all. Between mind control, fire & people moving objects with their minds, the government agents never stood a chance. And since they really weren’t aware of how many people were out there with powers, they weren’t prepared for the attack.

Vicky is reunited with her parents and they all get to know Charlie better.

At the end of the movie, we pan back from a conversation in their living room to see a monitor, watching that conversation. The monitor is one of many, and on the others we see footage of The Shop HQ attack. A team of scientists and military personnel watch. On other screens we see profiles for each of the powered people and in cells just down the hallway, we see more people detained, but these people are testing their powers against the cell walls, trying to escape.

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