Listen Up Philip, film review

Alex Ross Perry, 109 mins Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter

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Alex Ross Perry’s very droll and well-observed comedy-drama both celebrates literary ambition and satirises the preciousness, competitiveness and self-obsession of young novelists. The dry humour is exemplified by the absurdly earnest voiceover (by Eric Bogosian) which is used from time to time to describe the state of mind of the protagonist, the writer Philip (a fine comic performance from Jason Schwartzman).

His second novel is about to come out. Worried that the world isn’t taking him seriously enough, he compensates by taking himself absurdly seriously. He questions the motives of his publishers and of his photographer girlfriend Ashley (the excellent Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men). His solipsistic behaviour is more than matched by that of Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), the distinguished older novelist who takes him in hand.

You can see Perry’s influences. The film plays like a back-handed tribute to Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. The style is as quirky as the dialogue and characterisation. Perry shoots in muted, autumnal colours and fills the film with moody jazz music. On this evidence, the director is one of the most original and idiosyncratic new voices in US independent cinema since Wes Anderson.