On the eve of the publication of his second novel, Philip Lewis Friedman is making some dramatic changes in his life. He’s ridding himself of people who he feels are detrimental to his future and even taking a hardline with his publisher about self-promotion. Becoming ever more alone appears to be his goal even if that means self-destruction.
Writer/director Alex Ross Perry (“The Color Wheel”) weaves an organic narrative filled with dialogue that feels, at least, completely improvised. Shooting in super 16 film is surprising in this era of digital transition, and the look of the film is lovely retro, although I wonder if he could have pulled it off with one of the Black Magic Design cameras and skipped a post-production step altogether. Still, the choice to work in film immediately sets his art house speciality apart from the other micro-budgeted dramas in the marketplace.
And the casting is top-drawer. “Mad Men’s” Elizabeth Moss plays Philip’s conflicted girlfriend who lives with him but seems to have acknowledged that they will never truly be together. Jonathan Pryce is another self-absorbed author who attempts to assist Philip in his progression into literary obscurity complete with accolades from only the best sort of people, of course. Pryce and Schwartzman are a very good pairing with one looking into a mirror of his older/younger self. Kristen Ritter also plays Pryce’s character’s precocious daughter, who sees right to the heart of all matters with deadpan directness.
While not for all tastes, “Listen Up Philip” is a step in the right direction for purveyors of the now aged mumblecore film movement. And with Schwartzman leading the cast, how can an independent film fan resist?