You don’t need to be a genius to find a small part of yourself in the 2016 film Carrie Pilby. Whether you are a former child prodigy who graduated from Harvard at age 18 like Carrie or simply just another young adult trying to maneuver your way though the “real world,” there is something in this film for you.
Like many intelligent people, Carrie Pilby is the ultimate introvert. She lives on her own in New York City and is known by her neighbors as a bit of a “hermit.” After her therapist gives her a list of socially-oriented goals to accomplish by the end of the year, Carrie must step outside of her comfort zone at the prospect of being a happier, more fulfilled individual. From drinking cherry soda to going on a date with an engaged man, Carrie navigates the waters of the world that she has been pre-maturely thrown into by her IQ (and her father).
This is not leading lady Bel Powley’s first role as a quirky young adult: in many ways, Carrie Pilby is hearkening to 2015 indie-flick The Diary of a Teenage Girl. In both movies, Powley grapples with conflict involving the older men in her life. In Carrie Pilby, she is taken advantage of at age 16 by her English professor. Carrie also has a suffering relationship with her father who still lives in London, England. He is the one who initially sends her away to Harvard and has always pushed her further than what seems like she feels she can handle.
Powley does a decent job of portraying a “smart girl,” yet something in the film makes it less believable. It simply could be the actors around her, or the choices that the writers have made. Carrie rattles off facts and uses “SAT-words” but also makes certain choices which might paint her as less mature.
Now, it is important to note that this in itself is a part of her character development, and the overall message the film touches on about growing up and having brains, but it still somehow feels like it is lacking authenticity. Carrie can conceptualize and criticize major ideas about Saligner and Kirkegaard, but to a viewer, the dialogue feels very textbook and learned, not completely natural. It is almost as if the film takes her intelligence lightly. It is treated like more of a given than it should be. Though Powley manages to still find the humour and sweetness in such a complex character, it still begs the question:
Is this only the case because Carrie is a young woman?
Throughout the film, Carrie’s independence is slighted by the men in her life, and the resolution of the film (spoiler alert) suggests she is finally happiest depending on a new man in her life (in the 90 minutes you get to know Carrie, one would think her more a feminist than that). However, perhaps that is beyond the point of the film.
Regardless of its flaws, Carrie Pilby is still worth the watch if you’re looking for something heart-warming, funny and teeming with literary references.
Carrie Pilby was added to Netflix earlier this week.
Featured Image via Teaser-Trailer