By Darin Skaggs
Most years have films about art and their creator that challenges the very nature of being an artist. This is due to the fact that everyone who works in the film industry is attempting to be some sort of artist. Some may just be in it for the fame and fortune, but I would say that a great deal of them is in it to make art and at times that could be a real struggle. Therefore a lot of movies come out all about how hard it is to create art and what kind of person that would turn one into. 2014 will go down as one of the years for film that have an overblown amount of those types of films including Frank, Birdman, Whiplash and Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip.
Jason Schwartzman plays Philip Friedman, a onetime published author who is trying to get his second book published as well. In the meantime he argues with his girlfriend, retreats to a mentor’s cabin, sabotages every relationship that could ever become worthwhile and tries to make his ever growing head from exploding all over his self-obsessed world.
Schwartzman gives a wonderful, possibly a career best, performance as this narcissistic author who thinks way too highly of himself. He is surrounded by people whose goal it is to create art, mostly books in this matter. In all honesty what he does is not important, he does not cure the sick nor does he help the needy. All he does is make entertainment, but he treats it like he is the most important being in the entire world. This is even more tragic because consuming entertainment is an essential part of life and Philip hasn’t even made a dent in that field, yet he is full of it, thinking he is on top of the world.
The film is narrated as if it is being read straight from a book. It explains the inner struggle that the characters are going through and what is happening on screen. It even transfers from character to character including his girlfriend Ashley Kane played by Elisabeth Moss who gives a great performance. It shifts to show her pity for Philip and sadness of her life due to the horribleness caused by Philip. It also goes to one of Philip’s one time hero Ike Zimmerman played by Jonathan Pryce who portrays an older author who, again, because of Philip has turned back to his selfish ways and ends up being a lot like Philip which turns his daughter Malanie, played by Krysten Ritter, against him. Philp’s negativity on himself and how he only is concerned with himself affects others more than he knows or even cares.
Listen Up Philip is a nice look at an artist at work and how they view themselves and how they show those thoughts to others. Amazing acting all around Moss and Schwartzman are doing fabulous work.