I knew Carrie Pilby first in its presence of Mandarin Chinese translation, which, I think conveys more message the film contains. The meaning in Mandarin Chinese translation is similar to ‘lessons about happiness untaught by Harvard’.
The protagonist Carrie Pilby is a gifted young girl, entering Harvard at 14 and graduating at 18. When her contemporaries are making decisions for colleges, she has been already the young lady who lives in New York’s apartment. Big city. Young single lady. Now you see the silhouette of a modern female character? Such seemingly immaculate life condition, however, doesn’t guarantee Carrie happiness.
Carrie’s problem lies in the fact that her excellence in IQ doesn’t reflect on her EQ. Her slight snobbery tends to prevent her from seeing other’s greatness. Carrie is literally a figure proficient in knowledge, green in human interaction. The whole film is thus about Carrie trying to learn ‘lessons about happiness untaught by Harvard’, programmed by the life list her therapist creates for her. The tasks on which are all about humanity, responsibility, love and warmth ignited in solid relationships. Her therapist wants her to, for example, make new friends, keep a pet, spend New Year’s Eve with someone.
By this point you might suppose that Carrie Pilby is a mere adventure taken by an unhappy heroine trying to overcome her flaws. It is, however and fortunately, more than that. What makes Carrie always lovely is its literary allusions and punchlines.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Franny and Zooey is Carrie’s favorite book. She lends her copy to her former Professor Harrison, with whom she has ever slept with. Ever since Professor Harrison leaves her, this book becomes long irretrievable. However, when Carrie’s father, at whom she is then mad, gets back the book for her, Carrie retrieves not only a tangible copy but also a token.
To some degree, Franny and Zooey actually resonates with Carrie Pilby. Franny in the former undergoes her mental breakdown alone in her parents’ apartment in Manhattan. So you see what’re overlapping? Similar melancholy and solitude and same background. Franny finally has her brother, Zooey, to come to her rescue. Zooey breaks the icy wall of what alienates his sister from the world and pours into which bright light and optimism. So does Carrie have her knight. Her father. On the one hand, her father’s coming to her assistance, signifies their broken father-daughter relationship sewn. And on the other hand, when Franny and Zooey comes out from Professor Harrison’s book shelve to which it does not belong, Carrie’s bias with him is free forever from its imprisonment. She deserves to leave the high tower she has overstayed, her father brings her to know this.
Carrie and her father’s eventual (and hopefully infinite) connection culminates at a line, ‘it looks good on you’. It’s first spoken by Professor Harrison when he teaches Carrie how to taste red wine. When the wine reddens her lip, Harrison heightens the romance in the air through this line: ‘it looks good on you’. It then recurs after Carrie’s father punches into Harrison’s face, which makes him bleed. Before they leave, smart Carrie says: ‘It looks good on you’. It, obviously, indicates blood. This line is thus a significant transition from illusive teacher-student-romance to adventurous father-daughter-comradeship.
‘What’s Your Middle Name?’
This line incarnates what I love the most about Carrie Pilby, its exquisiteness. This line is first said by Carrie’s colleague, Tara. It’s decoded by Tara as a sign of encountering true love. Why? Because not everyone’d be mindful of such little thing! After the scene where Tara says it, we get to see what follows is Carrie’s date with the ‘engaged but confused man’, which fails due to her unbeatable sense of morality. And of course, before Carrie gets to say ‘it looks good on you’ as a revenge to Professor Harrison, his image has always flashed in her stream-of-consciousness.
Until she and her neighbor, Cy collide.
Honestly, Cy is the most adorable male character Carrie has encountered. Unfortunately, his didgeridoo playing on the street infuriates Carrie so badly that her hostility to him never recedes. Until they happen to take a stroll together, Carrie finds that Cy is never a seemingly dangerous guy who plays didgeridoo clumsily outside－he plays professionally instead for New York Philharmonic－and that she comes to know: you can’t judge a book by its cover.
This lovely pair of neighbors ends up spending New Year’s Eve together. And how do we know Cy might be whom Cupid chooses for Carrie? With the last line said by Cy, Carrie’s eyes move and meet audiences’, smiling with a sweet sense of acknowledgement.
‘What’s your middle name?’, gently said by Cy.
Carrie knows that if you pay enough attention along the movie, you’ll know what she smiles for!