Poser ex­poser

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

Lis­ten Up Philip, com­edy, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 4 chiles Await­ing pub­li­ca­tion of his sec­ond novel, Obidant, Philip Lewis Friedman (Ja­son Schwartz­man) stands at a cross­roads of his own do­ing. Suc­cess doesn’t make him happy, so he is mis­er­able.

Philip is the star of his own story, al­ways — so much so that he has a habit of call­ing up old girl­friends so he can stage cruel re­demp­tion scenes for him­self, which the women never fall for. His cur­rent girl­friend, Ash­ley (Elis­a­beth Moss), a suc­cess­ful pho­tog­ra­pher, is no longer fall­ing for his shtick, ei­ther. Philip is suf­fer­ing, acutely and per­pet­u­ally. He abruptly re­fuses to do any read­ings or me­dia in­ter­views to pro­mote Obidant. At the same time, he meets a lu­mi­nary nov­el­ist, Ike Zim­mer­man (Jonathan Pryce), who tells him he’ll never write another word in the noisy city and in­vites him to spend some time at his coun­try house (which is, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, ad­ja­cent to a busy high­way). Philip is in­suf­fer­able, but he’s young. Ike has had decades to alien­ate ev­ery­one he loves. In the movie’s de­light­ful voice-over seg­ments by Eric Bo­gosian, we learn Ike has be­friended Philip be­cause he needs the ado­ra­tion.

Lis­ten Up Philip is a send-up of lit­er­ary nov­els and writer cul­ture, es­pe­cially the as­cen­dancy of a cer­tain kind of male writer. Nor­man Mailer, Frank Con­roy, and Tom Wolfe gave way to Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eg­gars, and … Philip Lewis Friedman. As their nar­ra­tive voices — and their me­dia in­ter­views and New Yorker es­says — al­ways let us know, they are smarter than ev­ery­one else and pained by our ig­no­rance and con­stant at­tempts to hu­mil­i­ate their ge­nius. To mimic and skewer the “craft” stylings of lit­er­ary fic­tion, writer and di­rec­tor Alex Ross Perry overuses the same cin­e­matic tricks of­ten overused by earnest in­die film­mak­ers — need­less, cloy­ing close-ups and quick cuts to ran­dom body parts and ob­jects that don’t ac­tu­ally fur­ther a story. The movie’s struc­ture, pac­ing, and nar­ra­tive point of view are those of lit­er­ary nov­els, which are (de­spite aca­demic claims to the con­trary) of­ten as con­ven­tional and pre­dictable as “genre” ro­mance or mys­tery nov­els. And such works of­ten ex­ploit hu­man emo­tion in self-jus­ti­fy­ing ways. In this case, Philip keeps look­ing for the woman who can set him on the path to right­eous­ness, ex­cept that he hates women, and him­self, and re­ally ev­ery­one else too. All the women in the movie func­tion as one-di­men­sional win­dows to Philip’s soul; they are merely ab­stract as­sump­tions about what women think and do when they aren’t with men. The sub­ver­sion here is that this bril­liant movie re­fuses to give Philip what he de­sires.

— Jen­nifer Levin

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