Carrie Pilby (2016)

Carrie Pilby
Director: Susan Johnson
Writer: Kara Holden
Based on: Caren Lissner‘s novel
Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, William Moseley, Desmin Borges
Seen on: 19.3.2020

Plot:
Carrie (Bel Powley) was a child prodigy. Having graduated Harvard at 18, she is now in New York and pretty much at a loss. She resents her father (Gabriel Byrne) for having sent her away when she was so young and doesn’t really know how to adjust to life outside of education. Her therapist (Nathan Lane) tries to get her to live a little instead of just reading books. When he gives her a list of tasks to fulfill – like going on a date or doing something she liked doing as a child – and at the same time, her father gets her a job as a copyeditor for a law firm, Carrie starts to make new experiences.

Carrie Pilby is a sweet, fun film with a complex female character at its center. It balances humor and serious issues nicely, making it absolutely enjoyable.

The film poster showing a drawing of Carrie's face, looking widely upwards.

Carrie Pilby intrigued me because, for once, we got a female genius who is struggling and has to learn to live a little. Usually that’s a role reserved for men who will then encounter a manic pixie dream girl who leads them to a better life with her quirky ways. We are spared the entire reversal in this film: Carrie doesn’t meet a manic pixie dream boy, and she actually has to work on herself and her own issues which is nice. Also, the guys in her life do get to be more fully-rounded characters.

The way issues are handled in the film has a surprising amount of “common sense” when it comes to the details: her therapist being really pissed when he catches her listening to one of his sessions with another client; or the manipulation of Carrie by her professor (Colin O’Donoghue) being called out as what it is. This are things often glossed over in movies or even played for laughs. Not so here, and I appreciated it a lot.

Carrie (Bel Powley) and her father (Gabriel Byrne) standing in front of a door.

All of this contributes to painting Carrie as a very complex character with flaws who gets to grow and to learn – as a 19-year-old should. By the end, she doesn’t have everything figured out, either, but she is on firmer ground to make her explorations. Bel Powley – who I met so far as mostly a comedic actress at which she definitely excelled – is great. She gets to show off more than just her comic talent, showing Carrie’s vulnerability and her confusion, without making her feel incapable or a victim.

This makes Carrie Pilby a very enjoyable film and a nice watch. I would have liked it if Carrie hadn’t been surrounded by only men (with the exception of Vanessa Bayer’s Tara), but it didn’t take away much of my enjoyment. It’s a film that definitely made me smile.

Carrie (Bel Powley) and Cy (William Moseley) on a walk.

Summarizing: Lovely.

1 thought on “Carrie Pilby (2016)

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