Movie Review: 'Carrie Pilby' (2016)

Where do judgment, learning experiences, and morality intersect? This is one of the big questions haunting Carrie Pilby (Bel Powley), a genius, who went to college as a young teen and graduated when most are usually beginning.

Adapting to life as a non-student, a still-teenage Carrie is dealing with a lot of issues. Her kind and patient therapist, Dr. Petrov (a sublime Nathan Lane), is trying to help her sift through them with the help of a to-do list.

With her dad living in England, Carrie is all alone in New York City. When he calls to cancel their annual plans to spend Thanksgiving together in New York and announces, he has found her a job to help supplement her lifestyle, Carrie’s introverted world as she knows it starts coming to an end.

To help her improve upon her current state, Carrie agrees to complete the list her therapist provides her with and as the movie forges ahead. She does so in hesitant and hilarious fashion. Carrie is blunt, abrasive, and absolutely delightful.

Her observations, while considered judgmental by many, are for the most part scarily on-point. She cuts through others’ problems with the sharp edge of her no-nonsense demeanor, piercing through the baloney and cheese that so-often overpopulates moral dilemmas. Because let’s face it, sometimes doing the right thing is actually pretty simple.

For all of the shame, others try to cast on Carrie, a resilient and principled young woman comes to the surface. Bel Powley’s brilliant performance deftly defines the difference between Carrie’s take-no-prisoners abandon and the sensitive soul wrestling within.

She brings an endearing quality to a role others could have been tempted to play robotically. In contrast, Powley is expressive, upbeat, and vivacious.

[Image by The Orchard]
Based on Caren Lissner’s novel of the same name “Carrie Pilby” is interestingly constructed. As the film progresses, it splits between the past and present, since as one might suspect, they have a lot to do with each other.

As distracting and unnecessary as flashbacks can oftentimes be, the ones in “Carrie Pilby” serve a clear purpose and director Susan Johnson expertly weaves them in and out of the narrative without giving viewers’ the usual whiplash they inspire.

Stories about people being people are too rare these days. Carrie’s life is quite complicated, and as she creates drama, she sweeps the audience into every scenario. While darker themes underline the story, lighthearted ones help offset them.

Furthering its impact is that “Carrie Pilbly” nails its casting with an ensemble that seamlessly fit their roles. Excellent supporting performances by Nathan Lane and Gabriel Byrne give the film a heft of adult sagacity. While William Moseley turns in a memorable and reservedly charming performance as Carrie's musician neighbor.

Colin O’Donoghue is also fantastic as Carrie’s seedy college professor. It is a performance that demonstrates a wonderful breadth from his scene-stealing turn on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”

And speaking of scene stealers, Vanessa Bayer is electric as Carrie’s zany coworker and eventual friend, Tara. Few could have pulled this role off with as much articulate finesse.

“Carrie Pilby” is the rare film to pack it all in. There is drama, comedy, romance, and mystery as viewers try to piece together how Carrie’s past has affected her present. For those seeking an intelligent, original, and refreshing cinematic experience, “Carrie Pilby” is the movie you have been waiting for.

Rating: 8/10

[Featured Image by The Orchard]