Carrie Pilby

For F*** Magazine


Director : Susan Johnson
Cast : Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, William Moseley, Jason Ritter, Colin O’Donoghue, Vanessa Bayer, Desmin Borges
Genre : Comedy/Drama
Run Time : 1h 38min
Opens : 6 April 2017
Rating : PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Sexual References)

High-functioning geniuses are all over TV, typically solving crimes while earning equal measures exasperation and adoration from someone named Watson. In this coming-of-age comedy-drama, the titular character does no crime-solving, but does do plenty of soul-searching.

Carrie Pilby (Powley) is a 19-year-old Harvard graduate living in New York City. She has a keen intellect, having been accepted into the school at age 14, but is socially mal-adjusted. Carrie resents her father (Byrne) for neglecting her and remaining in England. Carrie’s father has engaged therapist Dr. Petrov (Lane) to counsel Carrie. Petrov assembles a ‘to-do list’ for Carrie: go on a date, make a friend, spend New Year’s Eve with someone, get a pet, do something you loved doing as a child and read your favourite book. While Carrie initially scoffs at the list, she tries moving out of her comfort zone to tackle the tasks on the list. She begins working as a proof-reader at a law firm, befriending her colleague Tara (Bayer) while trying to ignore the dopey Douglas (Borges), another colleague. When Carrie goes out with an engaged man named Matt (Ritter) to out him as a cheater, painful memories of a relationship with Professor Harrison (O’Donoghue) are unearthed. As smart as she is, maybe love is the one thing Carrie can’t figure out.

Carrie Pilby is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Caren Lissner, adapted for the screen by Kara Holden and Dean Craig, and directed by Susan Johnson. The film bears many hallmarks of the quirky, hip indie comedy-drama subgenre, and has trouble shifting gears from glibness to sincerity. Structurally, it doesn’t flow all too smoothly, and seems like it might work better as a TV show – perhaps a less obnoxious Girls (just kidding, this reviewer doesn’t watch Girls and is merely going off the show’s reputation). While there are glimmers of razor-sharp wit, the dialogue is generally too smart aleck-y for its own good. On the up side, it certainly isn’t as mopey as many young adult-aimed coming-of-age stories are, and there’s a pleasant tinge of optimism that sometimes cuts through its annoyingness.

The film rests squarely on the shoulders of English actress Powley, who strikes this reviewer as a teenage Maggie Gyllenhaal with a dash of Felicity Jones. Powley is an engaging presence and she gamely tackles the comic material, fully embracing the character’s awkwardness. One gets the sense that for as much time as we spend with Carrie, she’s still not too much more than the “socially-impaired teen prodigy” archetype. We get the sense that Powley is, as a performer, a whole deal more likeable than the Carrie character is written. The main way her social awkwardness manifests is how she’s quick to tell everyone just how smart she is. Despite the sympathy Powley is capable of generating, Carrie still feels a little too manufactured to be a fully-realised character. Hailee Steinfeld was originally cast as Carrie, and had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts – we could see her pulling the role off too.

Nathan Lane plays the straight man here, suppressing his innate comic sensibilities. He’s able to marshal a warmth and wisdom befitting a therapist, sharing some fun, gently adversarial scenes with Powley. Byrne isn’t in the film for too long, but he shines when Carrie and her father get to share an unconventional bonding moment.

From O’Donoghue’s dashing young professor to Ritter’s would-be cheater to William Moseley’s multi-instrumentalist, Carrie is positively surrounded by handsome men. It’s never easy navigating the winding paths of romance as one faces adulthood, much less for someone who’s never fit in. However, Carrie’s romantic misadventures seem largely in line with the experiences most of us have had. Carrie’s run-ins with the opposite sex seem to hew closely to established rom-com tropes, though there are several conversations that she has which possess adequate depth. Long-serving Saturday Night Live cast member Bayer is hilarious, even though Tara is the ‘sassy best friend’ stock character through and through.

Carrie Pilby has garnered positive attention for being a film about a woman which has a female director, female producers and a female co-writer, and while its sometimes amiable, this is far from ‘hidden indie gem’ material. This might be too twee and grating for some, but others will be able to relate to its imperfect, awkward protagonist. And as a bonus, there sure are some good-looking guys in the cast.

Summary: Sometimes loveable and sometimes insufferable, the uneven Carrie Pilby is a lot like its idiosyncratic title character.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The 33

For F*** Magazine

THE 33

Director : Patricia Riggen
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacob Vargas, Juan Pablo Raba, Coté de Pablo, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Gunton
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 120 mins
Opens : 19 November 2015
Rating : PG (Some Violence)
From the Atacama Desert in Chile comes the true story of courage and perseverance under pressure and underground. On Thursday, 5 August 2010, a major cave-in at the San José copper–gold mine traps a group of 33 miners 23 000 feet under the surface. The group is led by Mario “Super Mario” Sepúlveda (Banderas) and shift leader Luis “Don Lucho” Urzúa (Phillips). Among the 33 is Álex Vega (Casas), whose wife Jessica (de Pablo) is pregnant with their first child, and the troubled Darío Segovia (Raba), who is on poor terms with his empanada vendor sister María (Binoche). As the loved ones of the stranded miners grow restless with no news on the well-being of the 33, Minster of Mining Laurence Golborne (Santoro) coordinates the rescue efforts, collaborating with chief engineer André Sougarret (Byrne). As the nation of Chile and the world at large rallies around “Los 33”, rescuing the miners becomes a priority for the Chilean government, headed by President Sebastián Piñera (Gunton). In the face of insurmountable odds, faith and blue collar spirit must win the day.

            The 33 is based on the book Deep Down Dark, journalist Héctor Tobar’s account of the 2010 Copiapó mining accident. The film is in the English language and is clearly gunning for mass appeal, couched as an inspirational tearjerker that is a celebration of the “triumph of the human spirit” and all that good stuff. It may seem cold of us to be this cynical, but nearly every move The 33 makes seems right in line with established disaster/survival story formulas. Also, the ordeal was so well-documented that practically everyone who goes to see the film would already know the outcome, and the process leading to said outcome as depicted here is rather tedious. Structurally, The 33 is primarily comprised of a “three steps forward, two steps back” dance of some progress being made, only for the rescuers and/or miners to run into a setback before breaking through again. It gets repetitive rather than riveting the longer it goes on.

            Director Patricia Riggen does make some solid stylistic choices, and even though the 33 miners are cooped up in a small refuge underground, the story does have sufficient scope to it. The scene of the initial collapse is frightening and harrowing and the production values can’t be faulted, with the environment coming across as suitably foreboding. In a bid for added realism, actual news footage is spliced in and Chilean TV present Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld, better known as “Don Francisco”, plays himself. The miners’ Catholic faith and how their belief played a key role in sustaining them is also showcased.

            There is a scene in which the exhausted, starving miners fantasise about their loved ones bringing them the favourite foods they have so craved. It is corny and a little silly, but it possesses a combination of warmth, levity and sad longing that lifts the film above the standard tropes it presents us with up till that point. This reviewer found that to be the movie’s single most memorable moment.

            Every time a film based on a true story is made, there must be a bit of a dilemma with regards to casting. While a marquee name draws the crowds, thus drawing attention to the film, this might also pull the viewer out of the story. Banderas does bring plenty of star quality to bear as the charismatic and earnest “fearless leader”, though his performance is a touch theatrical at times. Phillips is something of an underrated actor and he’s excellent here as the second-in-command. Naturally, 33 characters is too many for each to be meaningfully developed, so the fact that most of the miners blend together can’t be held against the film.

            The casting of actors of different nationalities and ethnicities from the real-life figures they’re portraying achieves varying degrees of success. Binoche is commendably convincing, but Gunton’s accent slips a whole lot. Santoro is well cast as the slick Minster of Mining, because we’re conditioned to expect that a handsome government guy in a suit won’t actually get anything done. The interplay between Golborne and head engineer Sougarret is sometimes more interesting than the interaction among the miners themselves.

            There’s a scene around the middle of the film when de Pablo (who is actually from Chile), sitting with others around a fire at the base camp, tearfully sings a ballad expressing how she years for her husband to be returned to her side. That’s only one of many melodramatic moments in The 33. Sure, there are parts that manage to be genuinely moving, but it’s all pretty obviously engineered. Engineered entertainment value is a whole different ball game from engineered pathos. One gets the feeling that this story would be better served by a documentary featuring interviews with the real-life miners, their family members and the engineers and officials who orchestrated the rescue interspersed with re-enactments, as opposed to a generic survival drama movie.

Summary:The true story of the 33 Chilean miners is inspiring, but this film is a rather rote affair that is occasionally lifted by good performances and strong production values.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong