Coming-of-age dramas struck gold earlier this year with the Hailee Steinfeld dramedy Edge of Seventeen in which the trials and squabbles of growing up in high school are painted in a glaring, ultra-three dimensional fashion. We’ve all been through it, it’s shit.
Carrie Pilby appears to be the after effect; an Edge of Twenty, maybe?
Despite Carrie Pilby herself only being 19, she has the quip-smart attitude of a thirty-something, thriving for constant stimulation after reading 17 books within a week and graduating Harvard at the age of 18. Still, high intelligence doesn’t quite prepare you for the real world, as Carrie struggles with relationships and has to come to terms with the world around her from anything other than the view from her apartment window.
Fresh from the impressive adult drama Diary of a Teenage Girl, Bel Powley dresses to impress and leaves an imprint as she dons the role of Carrie, a perpetually bright and sassy individual whose seemingly mundane life throughout the streets of New York’s bustling suburbs is shaken up once given a list from her therapist, played by Nathan Lane. To engross herself in anything other than her books, Carrie must make an attempt. Cue awkward male interaction, daddy issues and a life-affirming story about stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Director Susan Johnson paints a picture with exceptional quirk and charm, though could have detoured into something incomparable if helmed by a leading actress of an undesirable taste. Powley fuses with her character under the careful and relatable supervision of her mentors, designed not to challenge stereotypes of the genre but rather gloss over a character that despite brains to spare is alarmingly and hideously emotionless, thus sometimes wavering from being overly whacky from a distinctly unhinged starter point to merely catering that a young female simply cannot survive without the impending arrival of her father (Gabriel Byrne) or an opportune male counterpart. But again, Powley interrupts.
Kara Holden’s dialogue is sharp, and through experience following suit from her previous, Powley’s timing is impeccable to say the least. She’s a glorified focus in a pit of underdeveloped secondary characters, mostly male sparks in a hopeful line of potential love interests for Carrie, but carries her with an effortless charm and likability.
The tone swings and the self-help messages are increasingly more obvious as the film progresses to a delightful climax. As much as Carrie Pilby is chick-light, it isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, but what it does is extend Powley’s range where audiences are sure to be thankful to see her in other projects in the near future.
Dir: Susan Johnson
Scr: Kara Holden
Cast: Bel Powley, Colin O’Donoghue, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, William Moseley, Jason Ritter
Prd: Susan Cartsonis, Brent Emery, Suzanne McNeill Farwell, Lisa Wolofsky
Music: Michael Penn
DOP: Gonzola Amat
Runtime: 98 minutes
Carrie Pilby is out on DVD now.