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Critics reviews
Listen Up Philip
Alex Ross Perry United States, 2014
Philip has received rapturous reviews; I’m glad it has found a wide audience for micro-budget cinema; I admit: the film gives the sense of a demonic intelligence behind it. But it makes me uncomfortable that it dives with such undisguised glee into the relentless, everyday cruelties perpetrated by two men who are pure, unadulterated pricks. It is this glee — this strong enjoyment of their pathology on the part of the film — that I cannot abide.
April 08, 2016
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It’s a character study of needling intelligence and jabbing accuracy, crafted and edited with exquisite 1970s-style jaggedness, yet offering no emotional or intellectual reward for placing us in this abject bastard’s company.
July 26, 2015
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This outstanding black comedy of bad manners is the third feature from the young American filmmaker Alex Ross Perry, and only at the end when you wincingly reflect on what you’ve seen do you realise what a Niagara-straddling tightrope-walk the whole thing has been. Listen Up Philip skewers literary preciousness with Genghis Khan-like zeal, but the film itself is, very proudly, both literary and precious.
June 05, 2015
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Without a taste of the writing itself – of how Philip manages to achieve beauty or greatness despite himself – Perry’s film ends up feeling one-sided and thin, a deft riff on a New Yorker stereotype that doesn’t dare to scratch the surface. It’s Philip who did the work, and if that work is any good, it has to harbour at least a few molecules of generosity and empathic insight. Where’s that guy?
June 04, 2015
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Although it’s a film about artists and their need to construct myths around themselves to make success feel more grandiose, it’s also a simple study into the nature of forgiveness and how cinema has made us believe that absolving people of their past sins is always going to result in the best possible outcome for all parties.
June 03, 2015
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Perry, an immensely talented artist, is wrestling with himself. Listen Up Philip is an “early film” desperate for the wisdom, or perhaps the closure, that comes at the expense of the regret felt in late life. The film is the work of an artist attempting to divine his own future.
March 17, 2015
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In what really shouldn’t be a breath of fresh air, PHILIP’s triptych structure serves to highlight the floor-mopping superiority of legitimate thespians Elisabeth Moss and Jonathan Pryce (really sweating it out here). DP Sean Price Williams’ luscious Super 16mm is, additionally, one last stern reminder of the true indeterminacy of waves of refracted sunlight falling through the New England autumn leaves.
January 30, 2015
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Like all good satirical takedowns, it is at once completely outrageous and perfectly believable, and contains a generous dose of affection within the stew of acerbity. Perhaps the retro book covers with pastiche titles that are sprinkled throughout the film are the perfect emblem of Listen Up Philip’s overarching tone. Thankfully, his films do not get swallowed up by their own cynicism, and retain a warmth even when their characters are at their most witheringly obnoxious.
December 23, 2014
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Given how shrewd, uproarious and accurate the film’s satire was for a certain echelon at New York (the laughter at the press screening had the reverberating tenor of collective self-recognition), Listen Up Philip became, for me, both impressive and depressing in equal measure. In Philip we see the sour inversion of the rebellious idealists so beloved by Assayas.
December 23, 2014
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With its roiling, tempestuous, largely handheld cinematography, “Listen Up Philip” is a film of style that is, in its way, as distilled and abstracted and stylized as a movie by Wes Anderson. One surprising point of contact makes the suggestion overt: anachronistic office equipment, eighties-style computers and electric typewriters, and even 35-mm. still-photo cameras crop up throughout action that is, to all other appearances, set in the present day.
November 01, 2014
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Listen Up Philip will never be mistaken for a BBC soap opera but it is a highly self-conscious literary film. Well-written, strongly acted, and often very funny, it employs the conceit of an intermittent, omniscient narrator (Eric Bogosian) whose introductory statement parodies the one employed by Roth’s show-biz double Woody Allen to open Manhattan: "He had been living in the city for nine years and only now was beginning to think of it as home.
October 23, 2014
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Listen Up Philip is brimming with unconventional narrative and filmic strategies, where it introduces familiar set-ups between characters and slowly veers toward a darker moral abyss, an emotional universe of ecstatic desolation.
October 17, 2014
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Listen Up Philip" is not quite so plot-oriented as I’m making it sound. The movie has a peculiar structure, in that it follows the narratives of individual characters almost willy-nilly, delivering wry, upsetting mini-narratives of the futility of all human endeavor. These are all peppered with discomfiting insights and dialogue zingers, and Perry’s eye for comic detail in all the right places pays off nifty dividends, as in Zimmerman’s very funny vanity license plate.
October 17, 2014
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This sort of mature perspective is a rare thing, and Listen Up Philip establishes Perry as a major talent.
October 16, 2014
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Words do more than hurt, they also slash and burn in this sharp, dyspeptic, sometimes gaspingly funny exploration of art and life, men and women, being and nonbeing, and the power and limits of language.
October 16, 2014
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This isn’t your usual indie breakthrough: Perry, whose previous features have a similar hermetic quality, has never been as confident as he is here, teasing out vulnerability and ridiculousness from a structure that avoids easy clichés. It’s a movie that loves boldly “important” ’70s-style dust jackets, loves its own lecturing voice (courtesy of neurotic narrator Eric Bogosian) and somehow makes that mélange strangely appealing.
October 14, 2014
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The obvious risk of a whip-smart acidic comedy like Listen Up Philip is its potential for glorifying the narcissism of its male creative characters. The breakneck speed of the movie—fast, conversation-focused editing by Robert Greene; huge, brisk chunks of third-person narration spoken by Eric Bogosian—forces us to keep up with Philip’s darting consciousness.
October 09, 2014
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Philip is doomed to be not just disappointed by his idol, of course, but by success (or notability) in all its manifestations. If this is, in an artist’s life, an unsurprising realization, it makes for hot-blooded viewing thanks to Perry’s razor-sharp attenuation to the dynamics of his scenes and their performers.
October 09, 2014
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Above all, Listen Up Philip is an extremely strange film, in its downbeat way. It’s novelistic in its digressions, its waywardly unstitched time scheme, its killer one-liners that are all the more effective in that often you can’t always pin down just why they’re so funny; it’s to do with tone, with a poised, deliberate off-ness about them.
October 08, 2014
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What’s jarring about the behavior of the characters in Listen Up Philip is maybe less the attitudes they express—competitiveness with one’s intimates is surely a “relatable” feeling—than the spectacle of self-conscious, literate people producing textual details which are shocking in their transparency.
October 08, 2014
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Although clearly reminiscent of Baumbach’s Greenberg in the unlikeability of its narcissistic protagonist as well as of Anderson’s Rushmore’s young-old friendship (and probably Baumbach’s Frances Ha in a fateful trek to an upstate college), the film is well written, well acted, and on the whole entertaining, a guilty pleasure for the American-indie and/or Brooklyn set.
October 06, 2014
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Perry skillfully, sometimes brilliantly carries over at least one distinctly Jewish feature of Roth’s humor: his tendency to give certain characters the authority of wise men and then expose them, by a series of painful, humiliating, and essentially comic reversals, as fools. The joke, in this case, is that the writers we turn to for guidance are often singularly incapable of guiding themselves… And this joke—like most of Perry’s best—doesn’t spare the teller.
September 13, 2014
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With a tell-don’t-show vibe, Listen Up Philip is a deliberately smart-alecky account of an obnoxious Manhattanite (played by Jason Schwartzman), whose life belatedly unravels when those closest to him understandably grow bored of his self-absorption. Plenty of cackles pervaded the press screening early on, but by the film’s end, Philip’s own destructive pretentiousness ought to repel anyone sensitive to other people’s happiness.
September 06, 2014
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At first, the sheer bluntness and irredeemable behaviour of Philip is a source of amusement, but it doesn’t take long for his repetitious, despicable personality to lose any aura of humour… It is ultimately a ruthless portrait of a ruthless asshole, sadder than it is funny, becoming a darkly drawn portrait of loneliness and isolation.
August 14, 2014
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Listen Up Philip was for me the most intelligent, original, intricate and best-directed narrative film of Sundance this year… Rarely has a narcissistic, unsecure male artist’s creative process been dissected with such accuracy. This is the world we live in.
March 23, 2014
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Was the extended, although much too brief, focus on Moss’s character a way to get around a classic second-act problem when your central character has worn out his welcome in the first? Or was it a way to entice Moss into the film by beefing up her role? Or did Perry confirm that he can’t write or direct female characters and just give up? Dear reader, you can see that this film so rubs me the wrong way that I can’t give Perry the benefit of the doubt. Or rather, my only response is doubt.
March 05, 2014
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…Perry himself is not yet even 30. That gives this remarkably achieved feature a precocity nearly equal to that of the prodigal fiction writer who rests at its center, honing his craft at the expense of any and all meaningful relationships in his life. It’s a familiar tale, but one told by Perry with immense filmmaking verve and novelistic flourish, and acted by an exceptional ensemble cast.
February 11, 2014
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