LISTEN UP PHILIP
(director/writer: Alex Ross Perry; cinematographer: Sean Price Williams; editor: Robert Greene; music: Keegan DeWitt; cast: Jason Schwartzman (Philip Lewis Friedman), Elisabeth Moss (Ashley), Jonathan Pryce (Ike Zimmerman), Krysten Ritter (Melanie), Samantha Jacober (Mona), Joséphine de La Baume (Yvette), Eric Bogosian (narrator); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Katie Stern/David Lowery/James M. Johnston/Toby Halbrooks/Joshua Blum; Tribeca Film; 2014)
“The title refers to Philip Roth, whose signature is written all over the film’s two male protagonists.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The twenty-something aged writer-director Alex Ross Perry’s(“The Color Wheel”/”Impolex”) acerbic literary film has an ear for comedy, as he goes to town negatively ruminating on the lives of those in the New York literary scene who are ambitious, arrogant and unlikable. They are mockingly deemed as literary lions, who might be talented writers but have great failings as human beings. Eric Bogosian serves as the narrator. The title refers to Philip Roth, whose signature is written all over the film’s two male protagonists.
The thirtyish neurotic novelist, the bearded Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman), has been critically praisedfor his first novel called Join the Street Parade and the praise has gone to his head. Philip’s overcome with anger on the eve of publication of his second novel Obidant,as he meets with his ex-girlfriend Mona (Samantha Jacober). When she’s late for a date in the park, he berates her character and rants that she’s inferior to him. The next girlfriend up is the photographer Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), who soon finds she can’t make a meaningful connection with her detached mate as the live together in a Brooklyn apartment. The selfish, self-loathing author instead connects with the once promising egotistical curmudgeon older author Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), who in the 1970’s wrote the popular breakthrough novel “Madness and Women.” Ike sees Philip as a soul-mate and invites his idol worshipper to leave the city and spend the summer in his isolated country retreat. Ike has not written anything in the last six years, but has been a literary icon ever since his first book was deemed a masterpiece. Ike mentors the wide-eyed Philip and pulls strings to get Philip an upstate NY creative writing teaching job in a lower caliber rural liberal-arts college.
Perry tells the rest of story by chronicling the lives of Philip, Ike and Ashley. Telling how Ike tries to deal with his estranged adult daughter (Krysten Ritter). How Ashley soon recovers from losing the author and gleefully attracts other less hostile men. Though Philip disappears from the film for a long time, he returns to self-destruct by going into a total a–hole mode. Philip has another failed relationship on campus with a college teaching colleague (Joséphine de La Baume), and continues to make bad life decisions based on his inflated ego. As a result, he’s left rich and famous from his writing but unable to ever become close again to another person.
The Super 16mm lensing of cinematographer Sean Price Williams gives the pic the look of being a guerrilla shot film.
How much one likes such an idiosyncratic dramedy about a tortured artist dealing with his muse, depends on how pissed one gets at all its unpleasantness and hardly remarkable observations, or how refreshingly enjoyable is the reality-based cynical but earnest satire.
REVIEWED ON 11/19/2014 GRADE: B