Listen Up Philip: Portrait of the novelist as a young man

by Mark Burger

Writer/director Alex Ross Perry’s new comedy, Listen Up Philip, focuses on a selfconsumed young novelist named Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman) who’s about to publish his second book but is nevertheless a miserable misanthrope.

Taking its cues from Woody Allen, who has been cited by the filmmakers as an inspiration, and Wes Anderson, who has worked with Schwartzman numerous times and earns a “thanks” in the end credits, Perry offers some worthy, satirical potshots at the notion of literary illuminati, personified not only by Philip, but also by his mentor, the equally self-absorbed Ike Zimmerman (the always-welcome Jonathan Pryce), whose house in the country Philip flees to in order to avoid what he perceives will be media scrutiny.

After a promising opening, however, the film begins to lose focus and narrative drive. From time to time, Eric Bogosian’s narration is employed, and actually the film works best when he’s doing the talking, bringing an omniscient observation that really moves things along.

Too often, this loquacious endeavor falls victim to its own talk and length. It’s fun to watch Schwartzman play so abrasive a character “” for a time. Krysten Ritter (as Ike’s embittered daughter), Jess Weixler, Joséphine de La Baume, Dree Hemingway (Mariel’s daughter) and Keith Poulson pop up from time to time but don’t have all that much to do.

Essentially, all of the characters “” particularly that of Philip “” remain unchanged at the end, with the exception of Philip’s long-suffering photographer girlfriend Ashley (likable Elisabeth Moss), who realizes she’d be better off without him “” something, it should be noted, that’s obvious to the audience from the outset.

Listen Up Philip is scheduled to open Friday at A/perture Cinemas, Winston- Salem !

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2014, Mark Burger)

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