Anyone who had trouble putting up with Ben Stiller’s abrasive title character in Greenberg might pause before entering the world of one Philip Lewis Friedman. A bearded New York novelist whose second book is about to be published, Philip is self-centered, vindictive, and—worst of all—articulate. He’s played by Jason Schwartzman, an actor unafraid of letting his least appealing qualities hang out. Schwartzman understands how to throw himself into this kind of egotist; we can enjoy the actor’s skill even as we’re being repelled by the character.
In Listen Up Philip, this guy is meant to be a throwback to a certain kind of ’70s antihero (the movie’s got the grainy look of the era), as well as the kind of literary character that might have sprung from the pages of Philip Roth. Having said that, he’s still a jerk.