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 ...
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JR has broken up with her professor. She enlists her nervous and obnoxious younger brother Colin to take a short road trip in order to help move out her belongings. They bicker and fight, ... See full summary »
Alex Ross Perry
Alex Ross Perry,
Tyrone aimlessly embarks upon an obfuscating journey into nonsensical frustration as he tries to locate German V-2 rockets at the end of World War II, as a soldier in the United States Army's Operation Paperclip.
Alex Ross Perry
Kate Lyn Sheil,
Bruno Meyrick Jones
Alan is a musician who leaves a busted-up band for New York, and a new musical voyage. He tries to stay focused and fends off all manner of distractions, including the attraction to his good friend's girlfriend.
Twelve Angry Men meets Silkwood in a suspenseful feature inspired by true stories, starring Lucie Arnaz (The Jazz Singer) and Elisabeth Moss (Girl Interrupted, Madmen). A young man ... 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
A strong cast delivers better drama than laughs in a field of tired clichés.
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.
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