I’m really struggling with the review of this film. Firstly, because my expectations were high the moment I heard who’s in it and what’s it about and secondly, because it’s not bad and yet there’s something very important missing from it and I can’t quite decide what. And it’s been a day.
LISTEN UP PHILIP is a new film that show that Jason Schwarzman is a man everyone needs to be a friend of and that even when taken out of Wes Anderson’s world, he is continuing to be in a Wes Anderson film. Here, he plays a writer who is getting his second novel published and the many tragedies this event had been building uo to. Let’s take for example his relationship with Ashley, a successful photographer or his relationships with his exes. They’re quickly become disasterous but soon we are starting to ask a question: if anything was ever right in Philip’s world?
Philip is an interesting character. An over-intellectual anti-hero who won’t stop saying what other people don’t care to hear. And this is what makes LISTEN UP PHILIP a strong film. The dialogues. Most of them are amazingly written to the point where we’re laughing out loud every second line. It’s a great achievement to be able to entertain the audience solely with words and the words in LISTEN UP PHILIP never get old. At some point Philip meets another writer, his own hero, who’s as arogant as Philip himself. Together they make ahighly entertaining couple but also build the background for possibly one of the most important relationships in Philip’s life.
But is there more to this? I’m not sure. LISTEN UP PHILIP very often feels like an unfinished Woody Allen’s script. The story is somewhere but at no point I could tell what the aim of it all was. Maybe there was no aim whatsoever and the film was a strict observation on someone’s life but this option seems to weaker it so I don’t believe in it. Or maybe I’m expecting something that LISTEN UP PHILIP has never intended to be? When at some point, the narrator who speaks in annoying metaphors and difficult words that could easily be subsituted with easier equivalents (a wonderful representation of Philip’s “high” mind) turns our attention to Ashley and for a surprising long time, we are no longer following the story of Philip. Or not directly. It’s confusing and breaks the intimacy the film has been trying to create so much through the close third narration and reoccuring close-ups.
And it drags for ages. The problem with a loose story is that it needs to be delivered in intense fragments, which LISTEN UP PHILIP does, but it does it for too long of a time. The film is two hours where it could easily be 90 minutes long and at the end, we become bored with it. Shame.
Overall, it’s an interesting, entertaining and well-written indie which Jason Schwarzman makes ten times better than it already is. But there’s something missing here. Something isn’t quite right. And that’s why I can’t love it as I thought I would.