Listen Up Philip
When a film has a narrator it’s always fun to try and guess whether they’re telling you the whole truth. The narrator for Listen Up Philip tells us that Philip “has never been one for speaking his mind.” The narrator is a liar.
Jason Schwartzman’s Philip is not a warm or particularly nice person either. An author on the verge of releasing his second novel, he spends his time moving from person to person – long-time friends, perpetual two-year girlfriends, even his beloved uncle – telling them exactly what he thinks of them in cutting, cruel and absolutely hilarious ways. Acting on whims and completely refusing to ever explain himself, he’s painful to watch, let alone work or live with.
The one exception being fellow author and aging role model Ike Zimmerman, played by Jonathan Pryce, who sees Philip’s untapped potential and offers him the opportunity to stay in his summer house. A blueprint for the future Philip, Zimmerman displays the same eloquent arrogance, but with bitterness and regret. Even his protégé is kept at arms length with snide remarks regarding his writing talent.
Philip isn’t given as much screentime as his self-obsession might appreciate. Both mentor Zimmerman and reasonably long-time girlfriend Ashley – played by Mad Men’s excellent Elisabeth Moss – are given some time to themselves and while neither of their acting chops should be questioned, these sequences drag a little too much than a quirky comedy should allow. It’s not unreasonable to want to include some dramatic elements in a film like Listen Up Philip, but Schwartzman positively shines on screen, leaving other scenes feeling empty.
The plot drifts along through a beautiful recreation of the 70s: Nikon cameras are wound, book covers are glorious in their retro minimalism, and it’s all warmed nicely by a filter that gives everything onscreen a slight beige tinge. The seemingly improvised and quirky, funny dialogue is punchy and sharp, and the glorious setting is pleasure to be pulled into. While it may not be for everyone, there’s a lot to love in Listen Up Philip.
Joe Manners Lewis
Listen Up Philip is released nationwide on .
Watch the trailer for Listen Up Philip here: