Listen Up Philip (4 stars)

Listen Up Philip

Jason Schwartzman shines in this hugely entertaining retro comedy

The life of a misanthropic novelist is scrutinised in Alex Ross Perry’s latest. We are introduced to the audacious Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman, on fine form) as he marches around New York City setting the world to rights. His biting remarks to his ex-girlfriend and old college roommate, made in disgust at their lack of career support, are hilarious. Not only because of his disproportionate venom but because he is voicing an inner contempt that not many would have the gall to whisper, even though we may be thinking exactly the same. There's probably a little bit of Philip in all of us.

The mercurial Philip is full of self-loathing, his second novel is just about to be published and he's going through a crisis. You may feel like you've seen this all before, but Perry upends the usual formula by also delving into the reactions of Philip's long suffering partner and eventual ex-girlfriend Ashley (a disarming Elisabeth Moss). Her unfolding emotional rollercoaster possesses a surreal quality that's aided by intricate camerawork.

When Philip is invited to stay with an author he idolises, Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) he begins to realise that arrogance, solitude and selfishness may not lead to happiness. Perry blasts the entitled ways of a certain type of male intellectual, including their archaic attitudes towards women, while Krysten Ritter as Ike’s put-upon daughter Melanie turns in a particularly touching performance.

Perry sets his story in the modern day but adopts a 1970s look and feel, complete with Woody Allen-style narrator. He's fashioned an amusing, astute and layered screenplay, his attention to detail is impressive and the dialogue recalls the best of Wes Anderson. It is a rare filmmaker who can effortlessly glide between so many different psyches in such an insightful and witty way.

Selected release from Fri 5 Jun.

Listen Up Philip trailer

Listen Up Philip

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • Directed by: Alex Ross Perry
  • Written by: Alex Ross Perry
  • Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce
  • UK release: 5 June 2015

Philip (Schwartzman) is a misanthropic novelist whose relationship with girlfriend Ashley (Moss) is breaking down; then he befriends his hero, even-more-arrogant author Ike Zimmerman (Pryce). Insightful, witty and impressive, with fine performances from Schwartzman, Moss, and as Zimmerman's put-upon daughter, Ritter.