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Film Review: Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip


Year: 2014
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Writer: Alex Ross Perry
Cinematographer: Sean Price Williams
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce
Country of Origin: U.S
Rating: N/A
Time: 108 mins

Jason Schwartzman has now made a lifetime acting career out of his typecast as an pompous and inconsiderate intellectual from the start with Max Fishcher in Wes Anderson's Rushmore. So it's no surprise that Alex Ross Perry casted him in a film where the character and the film alike share the same arrogant qualities that is braised with New York literary comedy to the likes of Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach. Perry's third film, Listen Up Philip  is well aware of it's influences and bathes in the tradition of the voice-over narration, self-loathing banter, and light-speed quip all while sticking to his guns by presenting despicable characters in the most harsh and unfiltered light. But its in that process of piercing honesty that we witness a genuine sincerity in these characters no matter how ugly they are. 

Schwartzman plays Philip, a tragically incorrigible and spiteful writer with a knack for unapologetic asshole tendencies who is on the cusp of releasing his sophomore novel. When Philip is not hell-bent on making everyone bleed dry of happiness with his sharp mouthy fangs, he is pestering his painfully vulnerable and kind-hearted girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss). Either way, he is an insufferable, self-involved bastard who just doesn't know when to quit and just smell the roses. More fire is added to the fuel when Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) who is the splitting image of Philip but thirty years plus, is added to the picture, only to make the plagued atmosphere even that much more venomous. Naturally, the collision of these two forces only ignites a blistering game of one-upping one another to ceaseless ends. No one said being an "artist" was easy.

It's only a matter of time before we completely forfeit to Philip and Zimmerman's incessant piercing jabs. Luckily, Philip's girlfriend Ashley, tells her own story sandwiched in between these other two guys we do not care for. I first and foremost know Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen from Mad Men and wasn't sure how good she would be playing a modern day woman but boy, was I wrong. Moss' breathtaking performance as a fragile and vulnerable woman on the path to independence was breathtaking light the film desperately needed. She brought such a painfully genuine performance that just swoops up your heart and hugs the shit out of it! It was at this very moment where I realized rare and immense talent Moss possessed that skyrocketed her to a league of greats actresses like Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman. 



Shot in 16mm, the film emits a seventies vibe that embraces the almost claustrophobic yet intimate scenery of New York City even though the story is clearly set in present day. What is also enthralling and refreshing is the fact that even though it tells very revelant stories about our current times, there is never once a shot of any technology-related items (ie: lap tops & smart phones)! 

I had the privilege of watching Listen Up Philip at this year's Sundance Next Festival where Schwartzman and Perry was in attendance! And guess who else joined their Q&A? None other than the revered writer, Bret Easton Ellis! Check out my video if you haven't seen it! Underneath all the grumbling rants the film spits, it is for certain that Ross has a knack for compelling storytelling with razor-sharp dialogue that'll make your stomach sore from boisterous laughter. He is face of the next generation of filmmakers emerging on the scene and like him and so many others, be sure to be ready to witness a mixture of both old and new traditions to bring a wholly refreshing and revitalizing movement to the future of film! A


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