About three years ago, on one of those “what to watch” Saturdays, I stumbled across Carrie Pilby on Netflix. The titular star’s face, especially those big blue eyes, are what grabbed my attention. Then I saw that Gabriel Byrne and Nathan Lane were also in it — two actors I greatly appreciate — so after further piqued interest from the trailer I clicked the play button. I have since re-watched Carrie Pilby a half-dozen times, if that gives an idea how much I love this movie! Read on for my opinion of this marvelous movie gem.
An independent film, Carrie Pilby was released in 2017. The movie is an adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name written by Caren Lissner and published in 2003 by Harlequin Teen. Lissner co-wrote the screenplay, so I am presuming it is a faithful adaptation but cannot assert this with 100% confidence as I have not read the book. Based on the solid 4+ star rating on Amazon, it must be a worthy read. This is the blurb on Amazon for the book—
Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby’s To-Do List:
1. List 10 things you love (and do them!)
2. Join a club (and talk to people!)
3. Go on a date (with someone you actually like!)
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist doesn’t count!)
5. Celebrate New Year’s (with other people!)
Seriously? Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She’s sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn’t! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try. Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie willing to dumb things down just to fit in?
The above book blurb sums up the basic plot line of the movie quite well. Below is the blurb for the movie —which is on Netflix, Amazon, and the other usual viewing places— and the official trailer. Note too that this is a perfect holiday movie as it begins a couple of days before Thanksgiving, moves through the Christmas season, and ends on New Year’s Eve.
Carrie Pilby is a 19-year-old child prodigy living alone in New York City. After attending Harvard University, she has spent the following years largely hiding in her apartment and visiting Dr. Petrov, a therapist and a close friend of her absent father. Dr. Petrov decides to write Carrie a to-do list of tasks in order for her to become more comfortable with social interaction. The list includes making a friend, getting a job, have a pet to take care of, and going on a date. As Carrie starts to fulfill the list, her views on sex, romance and the world begin to change her judgment on relationships and humanity.
Bel Powley ….. Carrie Pilby
Nathan Lane ….. Dr. Petrov
Gabriel Byrne ….. Daniel Pilby
William Moseley ….. Cyrus
Colin O’Donoghue ….. Professor David Harrison
Jason Ritter ….. Matt
Vanessa Bayer ….. Tara
Director and Producer: Susan Johnson, Braveart Films (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before)
As I noted in my review for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things — READ HERE — it is extremely rare to find a movie made today that is well written and has an upbeat, positive message. Moreover, it is rarer still for a modern movie not to contain a litany of foul language, gross humor, and endless sex before trying (and usually failing) to reach that positive conclusion.
Carrie Pilby, amazingly, is truly one of those rare movies.
The lead character is delightfully brought to life by Bel Powley. Carrie is a literal genius and Powley effortlessly shows this while acting the excellent dialogue and script. At moments, her high intellect leads to annoyance with certain people and she borders on acerbic, but her vulnerability, wit, and genuine decency shine through. I found it a joy to observe Carrie’s journey to overcome the assorted griefs and traumas, which add to her natural uncomfortableness and distrust of people. At every point along the way, I fell more in love with her, feeling sad when she hit a road block and cheering when she made a breakthrough.
I would be remiss not to mention the supporting characters. The cast list is small, but this means the light shines equally on the people who are important to Carrie. As mentioned, I’ve always loved Gabriel Byrne and Nathan Lane, and as per standard with such incredible actors, they are both marvelous as Carrie’s father and therapist, respectively. Carrie’s love interest is quite handsome and charming, as expected, and I adored how their relationship gradually develops from a friendship and meeting of the minds to a budding romance. Lastly, Carrie’s two co-workers are quirky and hilarious, their odd personalities seemingly impossible to blend with Carrie’s yet actually exactly what she needed.
The movie deals with serious issues and does not skim past or make them into a joke. Yet, it is overall a story of triumph, relationships, family, hope, and love. I absolutely relished every minute of it, so much so that it is a movie I frequently pop in just to feel warm and fuzzy inside. And don’t we all need that from time to time?
- The movie was filmed during the Christmas season in New York City, exactly the period in which the story takes place, allowing the producers to save money by not having to build holiday sets.
- Author Caren Lissner has a cameo in the Central Park scene at the end. She is sitting on a bench reading, two of the books in her lap the British and Spanish versions of Carrie Pilby.
- The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016.
- Jason Ritter is the son of the late John Ritter from Three’s Company fame.
- The movie was nominated for three independent film festival awards, winning one.