Listen Up Philip

2014review_rob

2014 has been a brilliant year for movies. We can talk all day long about the disappointments and straight-up garbage shoveled our way, but that’s a waste of time and effort when so much greatness is available too. So lets talk about the great ones. One quick note: There are always acclaimed films that slip by and go unseen before the year-end deadline, and this year is no different. So for what it’s worth, at the time of this writing I have yet to see Citizenfour, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice and Selma.

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Tribeca Film

After two critically adored novels, success has hardened Philip’s heart and calcified any remaining slivers of decency that may have once existed. As a result, “notability” has turned him into an insufferable, self-involved and repulsive egotist, interested only in his writing and the potential acclaim that may follow. At first glance it doesn’t appear that Philip (Jason Schwartzman) is fraught with internal pain, but it is there. Underneath the narcissistic veneer is a man who neither understands himself nor the world he lives in, thus making it impossible for Philip to emotionally connect with anyone or anything. This recent bout of despondency propels him out of the sonically assaultive milieu that is New York City and into an idyllic country home, away from his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), where he can begin working on his next novel. This is the concise, swiftly constructed setup of Listen Up Philip, the acidic, sardonic and transcendent third film from emerging writer/director Alex Ross Perry.

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Listen Up Philip

“I’m told to expect big things out there.” Imagine what it would look like — what he would look like — if Rushmore‘s Max Fischer grew up without adhering to any of the lessons he learned in Wes Anderson‘s high school-set charmer. All that youthful striving, the gung-ho attitude, the self-involvement, well, that’s just not a good look for a grown-up, which is kind of the point of Alex Ross Perry‘s Jason Schwartzman-starring Listen Up Philip, an indie outing that looks to be taking Schwartzman’s Fischer in a terrible — and hilarious — new direction. In the feature, Schwartzman plays the eponymous Philip (who, yes, definitely looks like he needs to “listen up” to just about everyone else in his life), a self-obsessed novelist on the cusp of delivering his second book. That may sound promising, but things are not going so well for Philip, and his bad attitude and latent anger issues aren’t helping matters. See? He’s an adult-sized monster Max Fischer. Get to know Philip after the break, thanks to the first Listen Up Philip trailer.

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Sundance 2014

Seems like just twelve days ago that Kate Erbland and I posted a list of our most anticipated films playing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Our choices were based on elements as diverse as cast, premise, the filmmaker’s previous work, and even the two-word concept of an “abortion comedy.” As is always the case, though, expectations are never fully met, and while some movies we expected to love ended up disappointing us others that weren’t even on our radar completely blew us away. That, in a lanyard-wearing nutshell, is the beauty of film festivals. Unlike movies that open at your local cineplex or release onto Blu-ray and DVD each week, the majority of festival titles are unknown entities. There are no trailers or other marketing materials for these films, and the talent involved are often barely familiar faces at best. Most of the screenings are complete crapshoots, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This year’s Sundance was one of the most rewarding film festivals I’ve attended in regard to quality, and it’s evident in the high number of films already picked up for distribution. It’s telling that I had to exclude great and/or highly entertaining movies like Dear White People, Cooties, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, and The Battered Bastards of Baseball to narrow down my list below. Keep reading to see Kate’s and my top fourteen films of Sundance 2014.

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Moss-Schwartzman

Writer/director Alex Ross Perry’s most recent film, The Color Wheel, was a pretty challenging story to ask audiences to get behind, what with its protagonists who were near crippled with neuroses and narcissism, not to mention its incestual undertones—but it was nonetheless interesting and well-made enough to earn largely positive reviews. And it must have turned some heads in Hollywood too, because now Perry is slated to be back with another film, and one that’s set to include a couple of name actors in its cast, to boot. The story comes from The Wrap, who report that the same producing team who wowed Sundance this year with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints are helping Perry to once again get behind the camera and bring one of his scripts to life. This time around he’s written a character drama called Listen Up Philip, and according to the report, it’s a New York-set film that’s going to star Jason Schwartzman as the title character, Philip, a newly accomplished writer whose poor life decisions have often hurt those around him—most particularly his art photographer girlfriend, Ashley, who’s going to be played by Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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