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

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