Listen Up Philip (2014)

This ended up being nothing like what I was expecting and I love that about this film. It’s a very Woody Allen-esque narcissism trip, filled with plenty of self-indulgence, self-deprecating self-sabotage of relationships and the subsequent self-imposed isolation. All in the name of pursuing art and glory. It’s easily one of the most satisfying experience I’ve had all year in fiction.

There’s an addictive ever present melancholic element to the story that’s peculiarly compelling and sentimental, but rather than giving it a overwhelmingly depressing tone, it remains a constant source of slightly calamitous amusement. A part of that certainly has to do with Eric Bogosian’s excellent narration that steers the film forward throughout the story by giving you insights to the soul life of the cast, but the slightly disastrous interactions of all the characters also play a vital part in what makes the film so utterly captivating. The story takes so many interesting turns, and you’re never quite sure where it goes next. It makes you get very invested in what’s happening and ultimately the pay off is spectacular.

This is easily the best work by Jason Schwartzman I’ve so far had the pleasure of viewing. Here he seems to have really found a perfect place that fits him as an actor and if he’s able maintain this composure in his future projects, in time he is going to ripen up to a great character actor, with that special personality driven gravitas and panache that all the great ones possess.  The rest of the cast is great too. Jonathan Pryce astounded me with how much of a lovable and insufferable, self-entitled prick he can be while still maintaining this compelling and warm charm to his aura. Even Krysten Ritter finally was able to show she has range to be more than the superficial party girl that she typically gets typecast as. Maybe her upcoming Jessica Jones Netflix show is worth checking out after all. I had some reservations with her casting, but this has given me renewed hope that she has the chops to pull it off.

While not a completely accurate comparison, Listen Up Philip in many aspects felt as if it was a less silly and more mature, but in an asshole-ish way, version of Jason’s old HBO show Bored to Death. Drop the comedic private eye stuff and add more of a self-entitled, pretentious drive to become a great writer that hurts all his relationships, and I kinda could see it in broad strokes both be about the same character. Admittedly it’s a very big generalization of the two, but it feels very appropriate and flimsy parallel to draw in this case.

Visually the film is very pleasing to the eye. For example the ending credits showcasing the cover art of all the fictionalized books mentioned in the film was adorable, a nice touch and a very cute idea to spice up the credits. Adding to that, I really loved the way the entire film was shot. The handheld camera adds so much intimacy to the story that you find yourself very attached to the characters, even when they act like complete, alienating assholes. It feels almost wrong to be so enamored with them, because I recognize all the negative traits they manifest in me, yet I find myself admiring their harmful and destructive personalities like a moth approaching a brightly lit flame.

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