Smart & The City (Film Review: “Carrie Pilby”)

carie pilbyPOSTER

A family-friendly charmer about a young genius in New York City who learns that brains alone can’t solve the puzzling equation called Life.

SnapShot Plot

The long awaited film adaptation of Carrie Pilby, based on the novel by Caren Lissner, won’t disappoint loyal fans who fell in love with the plucky young genius at the center of the book. Luminously brought to life in the slight frame of British newcomer, Bel Powley (A Royal Night Out; Diary of a Teenage Girl), Carrie is an inscrutable loner and quasi-hermit living an isolated existence in New York City. Five years earlier, Carrie’s father (played by the venerable Gabriel Byrne) had shipped this child prodigy off to America from London at the age of 14 to attend Harvard University. Now adrift in the world and judging everything and everyone from a distance and with self-righteous scorn, she consumes books the way most people consume oxygen, averaging 17 per week. Carrie’s only meaningful human contact is with her avuncular therapist (in a pared down performance by Nathan Lane), who finally seizes on a technique to hopefully dislodge her from her self-created rut before it swallows her spirit whole. It’s a short To-Do List, containing simple tasks of human interaction that to most would seem trivial but to Carrie are monumental. After her initial defiance, Carrie acquiesces to The List (still judging it ridiculous), almost to simply prove her therapist wrong. The brilliance of The List, of course, is that it’s a set of tasks presented very much as a homework assignment, something this geeky uber-student simply cannot resist in over-achieving. Now the question will be how far Carrie will allow herself to be swept into the human palette all around her, and whether the exposure will open even the slightest tear in the emotional armor with which she’s cloaked her heart.

 

 

Parting Shot

The charm in Carrie Pilby mostly derives from the casting, with impressive turns in relatively small roles by Nathan Lane and Gabriel Byrne, while Jason Ritter and William Moseley do as much as they can with characters meant to represent two distinctly different types of suitors. But the real kudos go to Bel Pawley, who in effect saves this movie from becoming a formulaic and predictable entry destined for the dustbin. Pawley brings an honesty and an effervescence to a role which could have easily gone south, saving the character from becoming an annoying know-it-all while still exhibiting a crackling sardonic and sarcastic take on life. In her enormous, wide-eyed expressions, we glimpse the child within the young woman, and eventually the vulnerable heart which has for so long been craving the same things all humans strive for, Love.

Carrie Pilby is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv0OazssK5g

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