Anger rages in Philip as he awaits the publication of his second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his ...
See full summary »
Anger rages in Philip as he awaits the publication of his second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley, and his own indifference to promoting the novel. When Philip's idol Ike Zimmerman offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself. Written by
"I'm not 'successful,' I'm notable. And I'm not even notablenoteworthy, at best." Phillip (Jason Schwartzman)
Such is the direct, diffident, and off-putting novelist Phillip (Jason Schwartzman) in the smartly-written Listen Up Phillip. As the quote suggests, he is so solipsistic as to think only of himself anyway. But unlike the case of cranky Ben Stiller's Greenberg, I am fascinated by this misanthrope who keeps getting lovely girlfriends and interesting acquaintances. Such is the lot of an emerging artist.
Ashley Kane (Elisabeth Moss), a successful young photographer, lives with this sourpuss or rather endures his withering criticism of her and himself. Indeed, he brings self loathing to a new level. I like that honest but unkind attitude because I often have those thoughts but would never be as incorrect as to announce them (Ibsen's Wild Duck warns against total honestywe all need a basic lie about ourselves). When my friends and I have a rollicking good time, it's mostly over sardonic assessments of ourselves, so I identify.
Jonathan Pryce is priceless as the once great Jewish author, Ike Zimmerman (both authors remind me of the anarchic, brilliant Phillip Roth; think of Ghost Writer). He takes Phillip under his wing, but he also has resentments masked by his equally blunt mien (the two are a great match, word for bitter word).
As in Roth's and Woody Allen's world, NYC is an ever present character. The authors try to avoid its magnetic influence by vacating to write. For sure, the city is a boon for creativity but a failure at production. I surely can understand how the city's cultural overload could compromise the best of literary intentions.
Witty writer/director Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Phillip is as much about fulfilling one's artistry and making friends as it is about publishing. Nothing in NYC is easy, and if you're a narcissistic author, its downright brutal. Yet, as Ashley tells Phillip, "It's hot, you being mean." Only in NYC could being mean get girls.
7 of 11 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?