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|Listen Up Philip|
dir-scr Alex Ross Perry
prd Joshua Blum, Toby Halbrooks, James M Johnston, David Lowery, Katie Stern
with Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Josephine de La Baume, Jess Weixler, Dree Hemingway, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil, Daniel London, Samantha Jacober, Eric Bogosian
release US 17.Oct.14, UK 5.Jun.15
Pillow talk: de la Baume and Schwartzmann
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
In the style of an arch Woody Allen comedy, writer-director Perry creates a witty but ultimately serious portrait of a group of people who have made a mess of their lives, mainly due to male arrogance. As a result, it's the women who deliver the most engaging performances. Because the men are fairly despicable.
About to publish his second novel, Philip (Schwartzman) becomes even more insufferably arrogant than usual. His girlfriend Ashley (Moss) finds her affections waning just as Philip randomly decides to do no promotion for his book and instead decamp to the country home of successful author Ike (Pryce). But Ike is even more self-absorbed than Philip, annoying his daughter Melanie (Ritter) by inviting irritating people like Philip to the house. As Philip gets a lecturing job at a local university, Ashley decides she's not going to wait for him to come home.
Despite all of this interaction, everyone in this film is lonely, which seems to be Perry's central point. Each of the characters is working to subvert the others, usually in passive ways they don't even see themselves, and all of this is noted in Bogosian's omniscient, literary-style voiceover. It's not a particularly hopeful look at humanity, and the repetitive nature of each character's experiences makes the film feel somewhat meandering and dull.
But the performances make it worth a look. Moss is especially impressive as the needy Ashley, who finds just enough inner strength to make a new life with her angry cat Gadzookey. Schwartzman and Pryce have more difficult roles as men so caught up in their own images that they barely notice the people nearby, and usually alienate them by being so stubbornly blind to everyone's needs. It's not easy watching a film that so clearly wants us to sympathise with such unlikeable characters.
Perry's directing style is loose and involving, shooting doc-style with hand-held cameras that usually fill the frame with the actors' faces. This is great for revealing the textures and layers of the performances, but it's not so nice to watch when the person in the frame is loathsome. So in the end, while there are solid laughs peppered throughout the dialog, and some remarkably telling scenes as well, watching the film is like being forced to spend a day with people you can't bear to be around.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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