Review by Levi White
I get paid to review movies; so even the pain incurred from watching a bad movie is eased by the small padding in my wallet. If I find my attention drifting in and out during a film, I often think of how lucky I am to be earning money just to watch and evaluate. Carrie Pilby has made me feel very lucky.
Carrie Pilby is the story about a young woman of the same name who is very smart. Like VERY smart. You’ll start to comprehend how smart she is probably around the thirtieth time she states it to the small number of dull characters littered throughout the film. Ms. Pilby is a loner. She’s also very smart. She graduated Harvard at 18 years old, is an attractive, white, straight female and lives in a one bedroom apartment in New York City, better known as “the struggle.” Oh, she’s also very smart. Carrie is in therapy at her father’s request and she hates being there yet easily opens up to the therapist and vents about her problems. She’s also very smart. Her therapist gives her a list of goals to accomplish in which she reluctantly attempts to finish. These tasks along with a new job that her dad got her, take Carrie Pilby on a journey of discovery, self-realization, social mishaps, semi-romantic affairs, and ultimately acceptance. And, she’s also very smart.
Carrie Pilby on it’s surface doesn’t seem like a movie I, a 27 year-old, holey socked, half employed male, should relate to. Yet, it is a coming of age story, which normally can cross the line of gender specific genres. So, I can’t fully attribute my disinterest in the movie to the film’s core story. And yes, I know it’s based on a book. And no, I didn’t read the book. Please tell me how much better it is.
The weakness and blatant blandness of Carrie Pilby can be attributed to its direction, its acting, but mostly its writing, and even more specifically its dialogue. If people actually talked the way the characters do in Carrie Pilby, I would have easily put a shotgun in my mouth by now. Maybe that’s stretching it. Ok, if people talked like the characters do in Carrie Pilby, my distaste for social interaction would be valid and not just a byproduct of annoying aunts and uncles.
Characters are reduced to simple phrases with little insight. Vanessa Bayer is a little easy, Desmin Borges is a little dumb, Jason Ritter is sleazy, William Moseley is charming, and Bel Powley is the sarcastic child prodigy. She’s also hyper annoying and uninteresting. We’ve seen movies about geniuses before. I’m not a genius, that’s obvious. So how am I, a Public College graduate, supposed to relate to a certified genius? Well let’s take a look at Good Will Hunting. He’s a genius. He’s also crass, a construction worker, a janitor and gets into bar fights. He uses his smarts in one fight then uses his fists for another. His character has dimension and a back story that draws on empathy, for most, and not sympathy. (I had to look up the difference)
Carrie Pilby however, proves only that she can say she’s smart. She never uses her smarts to solve a problem. Instead she stumbles through the story like a baby learning to walk. Everything that she does learn, don’t start relationships with strange to-be-married men, don’t sleep with your teachers, don’t blame your father for your mother’s death, and don’t give up on your family and yourself, are not lessons that you can only learn when you’re smart. So why do we need to hear about how smart she is over and over again?
The acting in the film wasn’t very good, save for a rare subdued performance from The Bird Cage’s Nathan Lane, but to be fair the actors didn’t have much to work with.The dialogue, especially the lead character’s, plays more like bad stand up than natural conversation. You watch it hoping to get a laugh while simultaneously thinking, “I could do better.” So maybe it’ll motivate you Screenplay, Save the Cat praising screenwriters out there. Look, anyone can write one dimensional characters and get a movie made!
To sum up, Carrie Pilby is a formulaic indie that, like it’s main character, would rather tell you how smart it is than show you. Also, I don’t get paid to review movies. You think someone would pay me for this garbled mess? I love you aunts and uncles, Bye!
CARRIE PILBY in theaters March 31st, 2017 and on demand April 4th, 2017.
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