Listen Up Philip
By Christie Robb
As we head into the holiday season, do you worry that your family and friends are just too delightful? Do you long for awkward stories to share with co-workers in the break room about the rude kids with eyes glued to their smart phones, cousin Stan’s narcissistic monologues about how much money he makes, and repressed childhood rage erupting over Pillsbury Crescent Rolls?
If so, Listen Up Philip might fill the void.
Dive into the life of notable author Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman) as he prepares to usher his second novel into publication. He’s got everything he wants: a New York apartment, a successful photographer girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss), and placement in a top 35 under 35 list.
But he is incapable of experiencing happiness, crippled with anxiety and dread.
When established-author Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers him craft advice and a place to crash, Philip flees upstate to the country. With misanthropic Zimmerman as a model, Philip fully begins to explore the dark and musty corners of his asshattery. And this after he has made two separate social engagements to berate an unsupportive ex and his less successful college roommate (“This could have been us! Instead, I’m all alone.”) and thrown a tantrum, refusing to promote his novel.
With Schwartzman playing a novelist you might think you’re in for the wacky hijinks of HBOs Bored to Death. With the delightful faux vintage book covers and narrator, you might think you stumbled on a Wes Anderson knockoff.
Instead writer/director Alex Ross Perry, treats us to character studies of entitled, white males who operate like emotional vampires, sucking their intimate relationships (and the women recovering from them) dry to fuel their work. Don’t expect any reformed curmudgeons in this one.
Listen Up Philip is faultlessly acted and often darkly funny, tickling a malignant funny bone when Ike and Philip brazen past the social niceties. (At one point, when a student in his creative writing class asks Philip for a recommendation, he scolds her while shuffling around on his desk, then shoves a blank piece of paper at her, saying, “Here’s a piece of paper with staples in it.”)
You may recognize this kind of guy from your humanities classes. Maybe you had the misfortune to have one sidle up to you at a party. Or perhaps one is waiting for you to pass him the turkey.