Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip makes a compelling argument for the narcissist — maybe they have feelings too? When we meet Philip Lewis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman), he’s on the cusp of greatness, publishing his second novel. He’s a literary darling, an indie hero with groupies in Brooklyn and elbow patches on his jacket, the talk of the town with the support of his publishing house behind him. And he doesn’t want it, because he’s already well aware that he’s great.

Philip’s an ass, and it’s a not a secret. But this film isn’t just about him — though he’d probably like it to be so. Perry’s feature is a true accomplishment of composition, following three distinct stories: Philip and his attempts to be the next great something in the literary world, his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss) and her brushed-aside ambitions, and an aging, legendary novelist (Jonathan Pryce) looking to get his head back in the game — and maybe seeing a little bit of himself in someone new.

It’s a cool and collected film, hosted by a third-person narrator (Eric Bogosian) who chimes in during the spaces between Philip’s unbridled rage. Everything that Philip does in order to get ahead has consequences, but he doesn’t really care. His relationship with Ashley deteriorates, he escapes to the countryside with his mentor/hero to get some quiet and inspiration and he keeps his arms swinging the entire time for anyone who dares stand in his path. Philip’s tendencies to think in the now, combined with his penchant for holding a grudge, make for some of the best pieces of the film — and solidify this wonderful toxicity nailed by Schwartzman.

At one point Philip’s supposed to meet an old college friend for drinks, then derides her mercilessly for showing up late, sending her away. This is repeated over and over, within his personal life and professional — especially when we get to the part where Philip falls into a teaching position. He doesn’t really give a damn, he’s there for himself and he would love it if everyone else would finally realize it.

Elisabeth Moss, as Ashley, needs recognition for the way that she conveys her disgust toward her estranged partner without saying a word, just contorting her face. It’s devastating and withering. She mourns the loss of her relationship, but like anyone watching also realizes, she’s the hero of this story. Ashley gets a cat, gets a handle on her career, gets rid of Philip and gets her own healthy sense of anger.

Whether or not leaving the city to write under the tutelage of a revered, but similarly-minded, author, was really the best choice for Philip and his development as a functioning human being is up in the air by the end of the film. Ike Zimmerman, a Gore Vidal-esque author with a long, now stalled career and an ignored daughter (Krysten Ritter, doing some of her best work, and some screaming that rivals Schwartzman), shares Philip’s views on the world and is a representation for what that gets you: great success, a fantastic house, a bitter family and maybe a little resentment when that success stops.

There’s clearly a lot of people talking, and Philip really needs to listen.