Every once in a while a movie comes along that makes me question my love of film.
This film is reason why people think that you have to be a self-absorbed pretentious asshole to like independent cinema. After all, who else would want to watch (or make) a film about the same? Starring a bunch of assholes who are not out to save the galaxy, Listen up Philip features Jason Schwartzman, Elizabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter, Jonathan Pryce, and narrator Eric Bogosian who have all been in far better things.
Philip (Schwartzman) is a well regarded writer getting ready for the release of his second novel. He’s bored with life and above those in it, however. He doesn’t care for his agent, and his girlfriend (Moss) is just a distraction who no longer gets him. The entire city of New York, in fact, is an oppressive force dedicated to stifling him. He is a prick.
One of his idols – a future version of himself, author Ike Zimmerman (Pryce) – suddenly offers him a great opportunity. An opportunity that Philip is not likely to turn down. An opportunity to stay with him at his isolated home upstate in order to clear his head and realize his full potential away from all the scum beneath his feat. Ike is also a prick, though I think he may realize it to some degree.
Of course, nothing is going to make these people happy as they are so self absorbed that it doesn’t matter where they are or who they are with, they are going to remain the same, blaming their surroundings and acquaintances for their sour moods.
Populated with people we would hope to never have in our lives, this is a soap opera nobody would want to watch, or – as another critic put it – it’s like an arthouse reality show.
Oh yes, I get that it can be interpreted as a reflection on America, or people in general, and how deep down (or not so deep down) a lot of people only really care about themselves. And that’s no way to be happy – or some such crap like that. I could throw out phrases like microcosm of narcissism or magnified character study. I don’t need a movie with people I hate in it to tell me that our society thinks a lot of itself and people suck.
This film hits you over the head with a point you don’t need driven home and is a poor excuse for a narrative. Avoid at all costs, unless you are also a self absorbed prick.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: One out of five hats
Listen up Philip thinks a lot of itself in limited release and VOD