Listen up Philip USA LAUGH section
The eponymous Philip is an egocentric novelist with an insecurity problem almost equalling his failure to create a stable and satisfactory relationship. Told with an intermittent voice-over, telling us where the characters are in their heads – which is largely disillusioned, melancholic, frustrated and lonely – we meet first Philip, who is angry and bitter, his second novel is due for publication soon but he manages to alienate pretty much everyone around him, including his editor before it comes out and then the avuncular Ike.
His current girl-friend, Ashley played sympathetically by Elisabeth Moss, has found him difficult. Philip has been unhelpfully jealous when she has been successful and is equally rebarbative about her lack of enthusiasm for his success, even though he does not seem on the point of enjoying it himself. Through his publisher or agent, neither of whom he likes at all, he meets a much older and much more successful writer, Ike Zimmerman, played magnificently by Jonathan Pryce. Ike hands out gobbets of sage advice, while at the same time demonstrating his own completely self-defeating inability to maintain decent relationships, mainly with his daughter but also with most of his old friends; lonely in the city which he finds stifling and noisy, he retreats to his country place with an open invitation to Philip to join him.
The drama lies mostly in the hopeless circle of misery that revolves around these characters, frequently filmed in close-up there is a terrible sense of despair, eyes fill with tears and then they fall slowly and soundlessly and just as often the voice-over covers the characters talking (shouting) so that you see the disintegration going on and only hear why Phlip/Ike/Ashley or any other character is behaving in this way.
Although this is in the LAUGH section, and there are some very smart lines and some equally smart book jackets, this is satire, in places quite bitter. It is a comedy of pretension, especially literary pretension and emotional dysfunction, wholly of a piece without being quite entertaining. It depends if you like watching the fish on the end of the line…
At present this has no UK distribution, which is odd because I would have thought Jonathan Pryce would still be bankable, and Jason Swartzman puts in a good performance of a not very likeable man.