For Reel

Listen Up Philip (2014)
January 15, 2015, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alex Ross Perry
4.5 Stars
Listen Up PhilipPerhaps the most considerate line spoken by the self-sabotaging protagonist of Listen Up Philip is to his girlfriend: “I hope this will be good for us, but especially for me.” He’s a pompous, alienating young author releasing his second book and severing all ties in his wake. Philip’s (Jason Schwartzman) difficulty as a social being is an inevitability–to be the great artist he aspires to me, there’s very little room for common decency (or so he would think). An aging novelist (Jonathan Pryce) serves as his mentor and a blunt reminder of his future, a hollowed soul filled with resentments. Spending time with such insufferable characters can be laborious, and part of the brilliance of Alex Ross Perry’s film is the way that he opens up the narrative to involve more of the world. For a twenty-minute chunk of the film, the audience follows Philip’s girlfriend (played by a terrific Elizabeth Moss) over a summer rediscovery. As much as anything else, this is a film about the expressive potential of Moss’ face–in one particularly showy long take, her desire to be rid of Philip slowly melts into her fear of being without him. For all of the abuse she suffers, we knows she’s going to be okay. As for Philip? Well, Perry writes him as a man who has completely caged himself off in his pursuit of brilliance, perhaps forever incapable of showing true empathy.

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