No matter how many movies you have seen this year, you haven't seen one like "Listen Up Philip." This film, which is directed by Alex Ross Perry ("The Color Wheel"), stars Jason Schwartzman as a selfish, indulgent writer by the name of Philip Lewis Friedman. He has a life full of complex relationships and many are detailed in this quirky but involving film.
At the start of the film, Philip has just completed his second novel. Rather then being exhilarated about this happening he is annoyed that it places him in a position where he might have to deal with people. He announces to his publisher he will do no touring to promote the book and then takes off to stay at the country home of his mentor Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce).
Later he splits his time between Ike's place and the apartment he shares with his semi-girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss). When he moves out to take a position as a teacher of creative writing in an upstate college the movie temporarily focuses totally on Ashley's character. Later it hones in on Ike and then goes back to Philip.
This is a movie about talk and character analysis. What information the characters don't divulge about themselves is filled in by the narrator, Eric Bogosian. And there is a lot to tell about the narcissistic men and the women who cross paths with them. Philip is certainly not a likeable character and he would be pleased to be described that way. His ego knows no bounds but in a rather self flagellating way. Ike is also totally screwed up but hasn't yet realized it.
This is not a movie that will fill movie theaters. It is more of a festival film that will be praised for its artistry and shunned by the masses. When you watch it the self examination of the characters is numbing after a time but there is always that spark of quirkiness to keep you from tuning out.
The acting in the film is first rate with each actor becoming the character he/she is portraying. This includes Kristen Ritter and Josephine de la Baume who have substantial supporting roles. The look of the film is minimal with no sweeping camera shots or grandiose musical score. Perry's intent appears to be keeping the look and feel of the film simple while the script and actors lend it complexity.
The film is unrated but contains adult situations and profanity.
If you are looking for a movie that is unique and out of the mainstream then "Listen Up Philip" is a movie for you. If you are a casual moviegoer it is not.
I scored "Listen Up Philip" an unheard 6 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper