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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Listen Up Philip movie review (London Film Festival)

Listen Up Philip red light

A celebration of male arrogance that pretends to be a condemnation. Because who wouldn’t love to spend 108 minutes with an insufferable egotistical “genius”?
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Hipster novelist Philip Lewis Friedman is an “insufferable piece of shit” who is “incapable of finding happiness” and is “crippled with anxiety.” There, you no longer need to sit through the insufferable piece of shit that is Listen Up Philip. I’ve spoiled nothing for you: Philip is thusly pegged for us within the opening moments of the film, primarily via the Narrator (Eric Bogosian [Blade: Trinity], who does not appear and is not a character), and we are never offered even the slightest of reasons why we might want to spend 108 minutes (though it feels much, much longer) with such a spectacular asshole. Especially not when the time is spent celebrating Philip, even though the film pretends to be a condemnation. Oh, I’m sure writer and director Alex Ross Perry thinks he is holding Philip (Jason Schwartzman: Saving Mr. Banks) up for ridicule, what with his girlfriend, Ashley Kane (Elisabeth Moss: On the Road), kicking him out; and his relationship with new mentor, legendary writer Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce: G.I. Joe: Retaliation), offered as an example of what happens to arrogant misanthropes when they get old; and everyone else basically hating him. But even though Philip does not change or learn or grow or anything over the course of his experiences here, women who hate him nevertheless come to love him, Ashley clearly cannot quite let him go (or else she would have changed the locks on the Brooklyn apartment they shared), and of course Philip’s new novel is amazing. Because of course it is: emotionally stunted men are the best observers of the human condition. “I want you to contextualize my sadness,” says Philip. Except the only context is the one in which even egotistical jerks still get to be heroes. So no thank you, Philip.

viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

red light 1 star

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Listen Up Philip (2014)
US/Can release: Oct 17 2014
UK/Ire release: Jun 05 2015

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Guest

    “There, you no longer need to sit through the insufferable piece of shit that is Listen Up Philip.”

    I suffered through this insufferable piece of shit and my quote is: “Listen Up Everyone…It’s One Of The Year’s WORST!!!”


    “There, you no longer need to sit through the insufferable piece of shit that is Listen Up Philip.”

    I suffered through this insufferable piece of shit and here’s my quote: “Listen Up Everyone…It’s One Of The Year’s WORST!!!”

  • RogerBW

    Great writers are notoriously hell to live with. Even if true, this doesn’t mean that being hell to live with makes you a great writer. (Or is justified by it.)

  • And it doesn’t mean stories about them are automatically interesting.

  • LaSargenta

    I hear that Ursula Le Guin and her husband and 3 children had and have a happy family and home life.

    I think her writing is far better than Hemingway’s.

  • RogerBW

    Ditto Diana Wynne Jones.

    But that’s the cliché, and from what I can see the only excuse this film has to offer for the horribleness of its protagonist is “he’s a great writer”.

  • LaSargenta

    No great anything is entitled to a pass for being an asshole.

    {Edited out a story.}

  • Joe

    Ashley did change the locks. Spent* not spend.

  • Thanks for pointing out my typo — it’s fixed now.

    If Ashley changed the locks (which we don’t see, that I recall), how does Philip keep getting back into the apartment?

  • Patrick

    The trailer to this film alone made me want to claw my eyes and ears out. Ugh.

  • Joe Schmoe

    This is like a Woody Allen movie sans any sort of humor, humanity and comic relief

  • In the final scene Philip can’t get in because the locks have changed. The problem with this movie is that we never see any examples of Philip’s work, which might convince us why people fall for him. With his talent offscreen we simply get an obnoxious jerk.

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