Films based on books are always a little hit and miss, aren’t they? Usually people bemoan the amount of content that is lacking in the film compared to the book. However, if you’ve ever tried to write a screenplay based on a book, you’ll know just how much you need to take out to bring it into a decent run time.
Carrie Pilby tells the story of, Carrie Pilby surprisingly, played by Bel Powley (Equals, The Diary of a Teenage Girl). Carrie has an IQ of 185 and went to college at 14. She is, therefore, a little out of sorts in the day-to-day world. We’d probably put her somewhere on the autistic spectrum.
Anyway, she sees her therapist, played by Nathan Lane (The Birdcage, Mousehunt), who suggests she start a list to make herself happy. The list contains things like: spend NYE with someone, go on a date, get a pet, things that are different from Carrie’s usual routine of reading 17 books in a week.
The film is based on a novel by Caren Lissner, a novel of which I haven’t read. I mention this, and what I said in the first paragraph, as, on first watch, you get the feeling that something is missing from Carrie Pilby, the film, not the person, though, anyway. There are parts of the movie that are truly wonderful, funny, joyous almost, but it’s let down by other parts that seem a little out of place, they slow the pace and disjoint things.
As an example, we are told about a relationship Carrie had, with her English professor at Harvard, in flashback form. But these flashbacks arrive very abruptly, sometimes it can take a moment to realise we’ve skipped to something. The pace of these flashbacks doesn’t tend to match the pace of what we’ve just been watching and this inner story seems to set the film back rather than move things on.
The film also suffers from being over-predictable. It’s obvious who Carrie will end up with from the moment they appear on screen together, it’s obvious what will happen with the guy she meets or the pets she gets.
However, contrary to all of this, Carrie Pilby is actually quite a nice film. Powley is wondrous at times and slightly annoying in others. When she responds to Lane’s question of ‘what were you doing when you were six’ with a deadpan ‘I wrote a series of strongly worded letters to oil companies’, you believe her. Yet when she’s angry or frustrated, usually at her father, played by Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, In Treatment), it’s less convincing.
Lane and Byrne play their parts ok but they are never really on screen for any decent length of time to really get going. In fact, the sessions with Lane begin to feel like they’re in there just to explain things that are going to happen, or have happened.
I know this all sounds negative and you’re probably thinking you shouldn’t see it but. But, there is something I liked about it. I liked that Powley wonders around this modern world of ours, questioning the norm, not obsessing over things everyone else does and looking at things with a different slant. It’s interesting, it’s intriguing, you just get the sense there could have been more.