Listen Up Philip (2014)

215) Listen Up Philip (2014)

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.

8/10 – First film I have seen at this years BFI London Film Festival, and what a way to kick it off. Making a decision to choose something light hearted and without subtitles was made all the more easier when I saw this film starring Jason Schwartzman playing a role not too dissimilar to his one in the annoyingly cancelled Bored to Death.

Only in this film, Schwartzman plays Philip, an easily detestable, narcissistic unlikable character, but against the odds continued to make the audience laugh through his sheer unfiltered arrogance. The success of which is largely owed to the tight script provided by Alex Ross Perry and the perfect execution from Schwartzman and the remaining cast. Quick witted, well articulated and highly intelligent, it’s a form of comedy that reminded me of Wes Anderson, specifically and probably due to being the most fresh in my mind was The Grand Budapest Hotel, similar in it’s delivery and attention to detail, and one that got funnier as the film went on.

The film revolves around Philip as the title would suggest, his bleak but comedic observations and outlook on life made for awkwardly funny viewing. Not to take anything away from Elizabeth Moss (Ashley) and Jonathan Pryce (Ike) who were both brilliant in their own right, but the film lacked Schartzman’s sharp wit, bitterness and humourous self-loathing when it decided to focus a good 20 minutes to Ashley & Ike’s fallout of knowing Philip. A type of darkness was felt, and without Philip on screen to break it up, it dragged what was at that point quite a fast paced film.

Stylistically it felt fresh and different. The film was shot on handheld 16mm and has a jazzy soundtrack to match, it felt jumpy and disorientating at times but overall it gave the film a very natural feel. It was asked in the audience if it was done to ‘alienate’ the viewer, but instead I felt like it was endearing to watch. It drew you in and became very easy on the eye. 

Overall, it was a great first film to welcome in the new film festival and although it does not yet have a UK distributor, no doubt it will become readily available when it reaches iTunes later in the month. It’s a very clever observational comedy on the pitfalls of fame within the creative industry and the arrogance that quite often is associated with it. Schwartzman is simply perfect for this film and it’s arguably his best performance of his career, worth the ticket cost alone. Highly enjoyable and definitely recommended. 

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