Apr 17

“Carrie Pilby”: Genius Teen in Need of Therapy Plan

Carrie Pilby is a new comedy/drama based on a novel by Caren Lissner about a highly intelligent young woman in therapy with a carin’ listener. Art imitating name?

Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com, sets up the plot and primary characterization of the titular character, a motherless child played by Bel Powley:

Carrie is the smartest person in the room at all times but she’s too miserable to enjoy it. She has trouble dating and making friends but she’s never at a loss for words. And while she has incisive analysis on the ready, regardless of the situation, she has a harder time understanding herself.

‘What’s so great about being happy, anyway?’ Carrie asks her therapist (Nathan Lane) in one of her weekly sessions, which give the film its narrative structure. ‘There are some brilliant, unhappy people.’ But the therapist, who’s a longtime friend of Carrie’s wealthy, widower father (Gabriel Byrne), is well aware of what an unusual young lady she is. A native Londoner, Carrie now lives by herself in Manhattan. She skipped three grades and graduated from Harvard at 18. A year later, she works as a proofreader at a law firm but doesn’t really need the job.

Whereas in the novel Carrie’s therapist, Dr. Petrov, gives her a 5-point therapy plan, in the movie it’s a 6-pointer. First, the plan presented in the book, per Reading for Sanity:

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!)

As played out in the film (Rex Reed, New York Observer):

Clearly flummoxed by her maverick, unorthodox nonconformity, [Carrie’s shrink] gives her a list of goals she should achieve before the end of the year if she wants to be happy. Go on a date. Get a pet. Make a friend. Spend New Year’s Eve with someone. Carrie Pilby is about how a girl who is profoundly disappointed in the rest of mankind decides to follow her doctor’s advice: ‘Give humanity a chance. Someone might surprise you.’

Alternatively, a snarkier description of this “feeble plot device” by David Ehrlich, Indiewire:

‘Get a job.’ ‘Make a friend.’ ‘Go on a date with Jason Ritter’ (great in an unflattering role). ‘Try to distract viewers from the overwhelmingly obvious fact that you’re going to end up with the handsome neighbor (William Moseley) who exists for no other reason than to be the nice guy who’s been right in front of you the whole time’…He’s quite a perceptive therapist, really.

In the trailer below is Dr. Petrov’s humble admission that he doesn’t “have all the answers”—“which is just about the most important thing a young person can hear, and somehow, despite the far-fetched nature of this film, comes off as inspiring,” states Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian.

Other characters of interest include a coworker played by Vanessa Bayer and a boundary-violating former professor (Colin O’Donoghue). Watch below:

The following review excerpt by Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter, seems to aptly reflect the generally mixed reactions among critics:

At its worst, the film oozes the sickly smugness of a self-help pamphlet, but when it relaxes its didactic grip and lets the actors take control it can be quite charming. Powley verbally spars elegantly with her co-stars, and the best scenes are the volleys of banter back and forth between her and Carrie’s potential suitors, first Jason Ritter, nervy as an MIT grad with whom Carrie goes on a blind date, and then William Moseley as the music geek boy next door.

Carrie Pilby is currently in limited theater release and on demand at Amazon, possibly elsewhere.

Nov 23

“Louder Than Bombs”: Deception in Grief

Louder Than Bombs is interested in the intersection between grief and memory, and how difficult it is to capture both either through photography or film. Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com

Looking for an intense dysfunctional-family drama over your Thanksgiving break? I mean, besides at home? David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter, sets up the plot of Joachim Trier‘s 2015 Louder Than Bombs, seemingly overlooked in theaters but now available on DVD:

Three years after the death of celebrated war photographer Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), a major exhibition is being planned and her longtime colleague Richard (David Strathairn) is writing a New York Times feature pegged to the opening. We learn via a quick montage of award speeches, interviews and news reports that Isabelle did her best work by remaining in conflict zones after the tanks pulled out, in order to capture the consequences of war. It’s also revealed that she died not in the field but shortly after retiring, in a road accident just a few miles from her home in Nyack, New York.

Richard respectfully informs Isabelle’s widower, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), that he intends to reveal the full circumstances of her death in the profile; it’s believed that she drove deliberately into an oncoming truck. Gene asks for time to tell his withdrawn youngest son Conrad (Devin Druid), who was just 12 when his mother died and has been spared any knowledge of her apparent suicide. Conrad’s older brother Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a break from his wife, his new baby and his college professor job to come sort through Isabelle’s studio for material from her final trip to Syria to be included in the show.

Jesse Cataldo, Slant: “…(D)espite its status as the emotional and narrative center of the film, the exact nature of Isabelle’s death is never clarified. Possible scenarios are glimpsed via the daydreams of one character, and discussed obliquely by others, but precise explanations are avoided.”

The trailer:

Themes and Meaning

Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice: “A fractured film about a fractured family, Louder Than Bombs takes a potentially tired premise and reshapes it before our eyes…a story of parents and children in which we’re pulled by the currents and countercurrents of desperation, depression, and love.”

Sasha Stone, The Wrap: “…(W)hat are we obligated to tell our loved ones? What are we obligated to tell our wives to prevent their getting hurt by the things we do? What are the benefits of deception? What is the eventual harm?”

Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist: “None of these characters are being entirely truthful to each other, or to those in their orbit. The three Reed men talk (or in Conrad’s case, don’t), but are incapable of communication, and their grief remains in stasis as a result.”

Selected Reviews

Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post: “Along with his regular co-writer Eskil Vogt, Trier has crafted a profoundly beautiful and strange meditation on secrets, lies, dreams, memories and misunderstanding.”

Michael Rose, Huffington Post: “Some might fault Trier for tackling subjects about people who appear to have it all. In ‘Louder Than Bombs,’ the angst of the upper middle class becomes universal as Trier takes us into their struggle to find what it takes to hold a family together.”

Guy Lodge, Time Out :

This is the stuff of unapologetic melodrama, artfully structured in such a way that the rotating stories inform and enhance each other even when only one character is in focus: absence is a presence, and that doesn’t refer only to the missing mother in the family. Yet the emotional conclusions here can be a little pat, and catharsis too easily come by. It’s more cautiously sound-proofed than its title implies. Only when Huppert’s on screen does the film feel it could detonate at any moment.