Listen Up Philip – Narcissism in all of it’s destructive, hilarious glory
Written and directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Joséphine de La Baume, Jess Weixler, and Dree Hemingway
“Listen up Philip” revolves around a young author (Schwartzman) who seems to have it all. His second book is being published, and he has a beautiful and successful girlfriend Ashley (Moss). Ashley cares for him more than he deserves given his narcissistic personality and the verbal cruelty he frequently visits upon her. Even with those things going for him, he cannot help but embrace a deep rooted disdain for anyone and everyone around him. Consequently, he increasingly isolates himself from any real interaction with people, outside of meeting with ex flames and old friends to berate them for disappointing him in the past.
In the midst of all of this, Philip is given an opportunity to stay the summer at the home of his literary idol Ike Zimmerman (Pryce). Zimmerman sees this as a chance to impart his own brand of cynical wisdom to a protege that reminds him of himself at a younger age. Philip packs up and leaves Ashley coldly and abruptly to go do what he sees as best for himself.
Eventually he leaves Zimmerman’s to pursue a teaching Creative writing at a local college. There, through no effort of his own, he is even more isolated than before. The movie then takes a detour to focus on the lives of both Ashley and Ike in the aftermath of having spent significant time in Philip’s presence. Many people will have an issue with this part of the film, as you do not see the main character for a good chunk of it. I however enjoyed that the director chose to abandoned traditional narrative and give us a deeper look into the lives Philip has affected.
All of the cast deliver excellent performances. It seems as though Perry was given the benefit of having every performer involved being perfect for their role. Schwartzman and Moss both are brilliant and give an emotional depth to the film. Moss, between this and her turn in “The One I Love” is really starting to get my attention. She seems to have amazing range as an actress, and I am interested to see what she does next.
I loved “Listen Up Philip”. Though you should take into account that I love heavy, dialogue driven movies that focus on the darker side of humanity. If you are not one who loves movies from directors like Wes Anderson or Richard Ayoade, I might steer clear of Philip. If you do enjoy them, check it out and enjoy!