For some reason that has never been fully clear to me, filmmakers love to make movies about writers. I’m not certain why this is: writing as an activity is not particularly cinematic, usually involving a single person sitting in isolation for hours on end. But self-involved writers with complex relationships and a tendency to destroy the people around them? Now THAT’S cinematic. Such appears to be the argument of Listen Up Philip, a new indie film starring Jason Schwartzman as the titular angry author.
Listen Up Philip has its lead character about to release his second, sure-to-be-successful novel. He’s not a happy person, though, with a photographer girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss) that he doesn’t particularly like, and a total lack of desire to promote his own work. He accepts the invitation of his mentor Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) to spend some time at an isolated summer home so that he can have some time “to focus on his favorite subject – himself.”
While the above synopsis makes this film sound like the self-indulgent tripe so common in indie fare right now, the trailer for Listen Up Philip has a much better sense of humor than I initially expected. Schwartzman specializes in playing these somewhat likable and ultimately selfish characters without making them too grating. Pryce, meanwhile, is a pleasure to watch in just about anything. While I am still a little skeptical about yet another “Woody Allen-esque” film about a semi-successful writer being a jerk to everyone, I am willing to give this more of a chance on the basis of the cast list alone. This is further reinforced by the two short clips that accompany the trailer, showcasing both Pryce and Schwatrzman at their pompous best.
Listen Up Philip had its initial premiere at this year’s Sundance, and will be subject to limited release on October 17. The rest of us can see it on iTunes come October 21.