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.

Update and Spoiler Now That I’ve Seen It (2018): That Carrie’s therapist has been her parents’ friend isn’t the only inappropriate therapy boundary in this movie. Carrie also pops in on her therapist at unappointed times, for instance, and pries deeply personal info out of him—and of course he is the one ultimately responsible for allowing such actions.

Carrie Pilby is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Sep 09

“The Intervention” Wants a Divorce

Actor/writer/director Clea DuVall‘s new film The Intervention, which I think went straight to VOD at Amazon and elsewhere, as described by IMDB: “A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.”

Hmmm…Intimate friendship group meets for an intense weekend…Where else have we seen this?

As far as I can tell, you won’t find one Intervention review that doesn’t, in a sense, ask the same question. The answer: 1983’s The Big Chill. 

A sampling:

Sam Adams, The Wrap:  “…Clea DuVall’s Directorial Debut Has a Gen-X ‘Big Chill’ Factor.”

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times, headlines her review “…‘The Big Chill’ For a New Generation.”

Susan Wloszczyna, rogerebert.com: “Instead of reverting to behavior from their youthful pasts like their counterparts in ‘The Big Chill,’ these 30-somethings are stuck in a self-deluded limbo when it comes to acting like adults.”

Further details of The Intervention plot courtesy of Dennis Harvey, Variety:

The group of thirtysomething friends who gather at an expansive family summer residence outside Savannah, owned by Jessie (DuVall), haven’t met there for some years; life got in the way of what had been an annual tradition. But now Annie (Melanie Lynskey) has orchestrated a reunion, one with a mission as yet unknown to the two who are its intended target. The others in on the plan — though more reluctantly, having bent to Annie’s considerable will — are Sarah (Natasha Lyonne), Jessie’s girlfriend in Los Angeles; Matt (Jason Ritter), Annie’s long-term fiance; and recently single Jack (Ben Schwartz), who’s brought along an otherwise uninvited stranger in the form of his new, discomfortingly young squeeze Lola (Alia Shawkat, serving a purpose a whole lot like Meg Tilly’s in ‘The Big Chill’).

(There it is again!)

Jessie’s sister Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and husband Peter (Vincent Piazza), who have three kids at home, are the unwitting intervention targets. Their relationship does indeed seem a downer—yet just maybe this young group of not-as-entrenched-in-couplehood types just isn’t attuned enough to their stronger traits.

Sam Adams, The Wrap, clarifies: “Peter and Ruby plainly loathe each other from the moment we see them, he yammering generic business-speak into his cellphone while she seethes in the passenger seat, but when they crush the opposing teams at charades, we’re reminded of the bond longtime couples share even when they’ve lost sight of how to love one another.”

Of course, those most into judging Peter and Ruby, we find out, don’t deserve their self-righteousness—they’ve got their own unexamined problems. Moreover, says one panner of The InterventionTodd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter, “…(N)o one here seems bright or in the least insightful, and everyone talks the same way, with the same vocabularies and basic outlooks.”

April Wolfe, Village Voice, offers another critique: “The third act’s resolutions are a little on-the-nose, and while the emphasis of this film is on dialogue, it’d be nice to just see these characters ‘being’ without talking, as a host of speeches toward the end deflate the tension and evolve this dramedy closer to a predictable rom-com.”

But despite some criticism of The Intervention, many reviewers, including me, actually found it worthwhile. Kevin P. Sullivan, Entertainment Weekly, is a good example: “Tears are shed. Laughs are had. Some jokes land better than others. The script wobbles between heavy-handed and touching, but the result is a pleasantly nostalgic throwback that’s saved from its copy-cat tendencies by charismatic actors.”

Watch the trailer and you’ll not only glimpse the various couples involved but will also live to catch one more Big Chill reference:

May 14

“The Perfect Family”: One Mom’s Misplaced Priorities

In a new comedy called The Perfect Family, Eileen Cleary (Kathleen Turner) really really wants to be named “Catholic Woman of the Year.” But, as explained by critic Rex Reed:

How can she ever explain to the prying nuns and priests arriving for inspection that her husband Frank (Michael McGrady) is a recovering alcoholic who forgets to hide his A.A. literature from the dining room table, her son Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter) is a fireman who has left his wife for a manicurist and her daughter Shannon (Emily Deschanel) is gay, five months pregnant and planning a same-sex marriage to her longtime partner (Angelique Cabral)?

Turner has played an over-the-top madmom before. As stated by Leah Rozen, of The Chicago Tribune:

A viewer (at least one of a certain age) can’t help flashing back to ‘Serial Mom,’ the 1994 John Waters comedy in which Turner played a similar role as an uptight mother intent on protecting her model family.

And it is in fact Turner’s performance in The Perfect Family that has won raves so far—not the movie itself. Rozen adds:

What one wouldn’t give for a scene in ‘Perfect Family’ to match the one in ‘Serial Mom’ where Turner’s crusading matriarch beats a woman senseless for having the temerity to wear white after Labor Day.

Below is the trailer:

Variety: “…watching a consummate pro like Turner navigate an uneven script, veering from farcical determination, her cheeks puffed like those of a demented chipmunk, to utter devastation, can be immensely entertaining, particularly when she’s backed by an able cast, as she is here.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “…Kathleen Turner’s show. And when a series of crises forces Eileen to re-examine her values and beliefs, Turner rises magnificently to the occasion.”

You can consult the film’s website (“See the Film”) for info about theater showtimes in your area. It’s also available on demand.