This story has more twists and turns than a second-rate soap opera.
It’s fine. It's literally the definition of a fine movie. You’ve seen it before, you know every beat and outcome before the characters even do. Only question is how much escapism you’re looking for.
The movie's neither hopeful in contrived ways, nor hopeless in different contrived ways. Somehow it manages to be wonderful
Writer/director Alex Ross Perry doesn't have much of an ear for natural-sounding dialogue, which is a problem, since "Listen Up Philip" is practically all talk. Jason Schwartzman delivers his lines in a stilted, overprecise way, I guess to convince us that his character really is a "notable" writer and a serious intellectual; occasionally he seems to be channeling in Max Fischer from "Rushmore," but without the irony or humor.It seems to me that someone who writes such clunky, flatfooted prose (he misuses common words like "remiss" and "impart") hasn't earned the right to throw shade on a real writer like Philip Roth, and Jonathan Pryce, as Roth surrogate "Ike Zimmerman," has to struggle to put across some laughably stagy lines. The lowpoint is a cringy scene in which Ike and another alte kocker (who looks suspiciously like Bernard Malamud) pick up two younger women, bring them home and then have to call on Philip for backup. Kudos, on the other hand, to whoever mocked up the jackets for Zimmerman's books, which look exactly like Roth's bestsellers from the 60s
Elizabeth Moss lucked out—she doesn't have to play a nasty, longwinded narcissist, doesn't have to emote like she's reading random pages from a self-published novel (I'm talking about you, narrator Eric Bogosian!), and the few scenes she gets to herself are riveting. The pro reviewers were surprisingly indulgent with this one; maybe they were giving it credit for good intentions—seems like what Perry had in mind was something like "Llewyn Davis" (satirical character study of cranky guy trying to reconcile artistic ambitions with practical demands of life in 20th-century NYC) with a smidge of "Frances Ha" (lighthearted comedy of manners featuring arty Manhattanites, shot with shaky camera and other New Wave flourishes)—but, from our perspective, "Philip" doesn't have much to offer in the way of insight or enjoyment.Perry's new one is getting good notices at BAMcinemaFest; I'll prob'ly watch when it turns up on Netflix or Amazon. Fool me twice, shame on me
Listen Up Phillip is a very pretentious movie. It's not a poorly made movie, but it gives me the feeling that it's trying to be more than something it is. Listen Up Phillip tells the story of aspiring author Phillip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman) who has just published his second novel. He wants to leave his adopted home city, and his relationship with his girlfriend, Ashley (played by Elizabeth Moss) is falling apart. When his idol Ike Zimmerman (played by Jonathan Pryce) offers him a chance to live with him at his isolated summer home, Phillip takes this opportunity to get some peace and quiet to focus on his favorite, and most important subject, himself.The main character of Listen Up Phillip, Philip, is intentionally unlikeable and it's very hard to root for him. In some stories, unlikeable main characters change throughout the course of the story, but in this story, Phillip not change from beginning to end. Although I feel this is intentional on the director's part, if the protagonist was even meant to be relatable character at all, as the movie's narration suggests, then I believe the film failed in that regard.Elizabeth Moss is pretty darn good as Jason's girlfriend, Ashley. She has all the right ingredients: she's full of emotion. Jonathan Pryce does a good job playing a messed up author, Ike, in a somewhat predictable role. Props to Krysten Ritter, especially, as Ike's daughter, who really gives us her all as an unhappy character. Also of note, is French actress, Josephine de La Baume, as Melanie Zimmerman, a woman Phillip starts dating at the end. Unfortunately, their relationship is underdeveloped, and somehow I was left feeling she was supposed to be more of a major character.One of the better things I appreciated the film for, is how, despite the title, Phillip isn't the only character that gets some perspective. There are a few scenes, halfway through the film, where we see things from Ashley's viewpoint. There's even a sequence where she's talking to Phillip at a restaurant and we can only hear his voice, not see his face. There are even scenes where we are shown the perspective of other characters, Ike and Melanie, and we are given their thoughts on what they are thinking during those scenes.There are some shots that I liked, too. The title sequence reminds me of a title sequence from the 70's and 80's, and I appreciate Eric Bogosian's narration (the opening almost made me think I was watching a documentarian for a second) describing the characters and their feelings. There's also a nice sequence where Phillip is driving the car which features some low-key jazz music in the background. While Listen Up Philip is not a film I would rush out to see again, it was enjoyable.
Electronically speaking, consider this film as a faulty, analogous low pass filter which should ideally pass all lower frequencies in a system and attenuate everything above a specific cut-off point, but in actuality doesn't attenuate any. The filter here is the central character Philip (Jason Schwartzman), the low frequencies are the witty dialogs, humor, Elisabeth Moss, & creative writing niceties, while the higher frequencies (which should have been done away with) are the blown-off storyline, shaky camera work, pretentious drama, & half-baked supporting characters.Telling a story of a two-book old grim writer, the film takes you on an incessant expedition with him while he follows his path to find wisdom & peace, yet produces ounces of snobbery wherever he goes. He is then mentored by another snob (played well by Pryce) who is a pretentious writer reminding us of Shaw or Hemingway, in ways. In the end, they advice each other so abundantly that without having pressed the button, they self-destruct. Amateur director Alex Perry uses cliché to perhaps celebrate his rookieness. It is evident from the first scene that he is a good writer of dialogs, which remains the best compared to any of the films I have seen in months. But, it is in the second half that you realize that the story doesn't move an inch forward with only dialogs as its fuel. It requires substance, and that is what the film lacks.BOTTOM LINE: Alex Perry's fourth feature is a cloudy attempt at a story that fictionalizes the last thing that should be fictionalized, which is "writerhood." (for lack of a better word). Pleasure yourself with those conversations, for they are amazingly quotable.Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
The story of the struggling writer is not unknown to Jason Schwartzman. He lead the brilliant but oh-so-short HBO show Bored To Death, about a writer who has to turn to detective work for inspiration and cash on the side. It was fresh, because that was just a framing device for something more fun. Listen Up Philip uses struggling to write as the backdrop to cynical drama and sour "I told you so's." If the walls could talk, they would gossip about the fights that have taken place over the years. It opens with a sequence in which Schwartzman's Philip celebrates finishing his second book by rubbing it in the noses of those who didn't believe in him. That's where he gets his satisfaction. That's the bitter world of Listen Up Philip. Every character is selfish, and miserable for it. The result is a film that's difficult to sympathize with the characters, especially Schwartzman, but it doesn't necessarily ask us to. They may be self-pitying victims of their own hostility, but they eventually do come to self-realizing conclusions, if too late. The film suggests that to make great art (in the form of novels) it requires isolation, cut off from the city and the ones you love, alienating them – as if this is the only way. The jerky behaviour aside, not just general standoffishness but frequent overlapping of relationships, it begs the obvious question of "is it worth it?" Well, no, it's not. Perhaps there are many creatives in the world that need this lesson, either way writer/director Alex Ross Perry is keen to explore it and take us with it. With a less familiar cast, this would definitely be labeled a mumblecore film. It borrows a French New Wave aesthetic (complete with a jazzy score) featuring rugged and dark hand-held 16mm photography. It can be a little sloppy with a lack of restraint, having some sequences comprised entirely out of dizzying close-ups. It does however add important weight to the drama and fortunately grow more confident by the second half of the film. This style is inherently intimate, if not necessarily engaging, and we feel like voyeurs. In turn, the humour of the film just doesn't work. It didn't elicit a laugh from me, only a smirk. It's not necessarily cringe-worthy, it's just the offbeat nature of it doesn't land in this environment, despite its 'Laugh' categorization at this festival. It's the ensemble that gives the drama the atmosphere the film needs. The script is otherwise serviceable, with a couple of idiosyncratic if indulgent licks scattered throughout. Instead it's more interested on being on the verge of tears. Elizabeth Moss is the undeniable highlight. She's always been fascinating to watch on AMC's Mad Men, and here she shows the ferocity and vulnerability that makes Peggy compelling. Her character may feel extraneous, but her presence is most welcome. Also great, but on a lesser scale, is Jonathan Pryce, who teeters fine lines with skill and makes a character that could've otherwise been trite (aka the cautionary vision of the future for Philip) believable and endearing. However, the film often seems too aimless with no end game in sight. It feels more organic, but it's missed potential. In the second half, the narrative bounces through the three characters, a little clumsily, but it's better for exploring the characters with a bit more depth than it could have missed with a straightforward approach. The style is a little free form, which can feel quite liberating, but mostly hints at a lack of discipline in Perry. Even with the film's rawness, it does feature touches of Wes Anderson with a Tenenbaums-esque articulate and omniscient narration – one that only barely justifies itself – as well as insert shots of books inscribed with in- jokes. Maybe the involvement of Schwartzman just attracts that unique style, although here it's rarely connected to him. The cast saves Listen Up Philip from being a complete chore but it still suffers from unsympathetic characters and tired clichés. Save the struggling writer scripts for the exercise pile, please.6/10Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com/)