Irrational Man – Film Review by Frank L
Directed by Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Written not surprisingly by Woody Allen, the anti-hero is Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), a professor of philosophy, in his forties, with a reputation for being a radical who is not afraid of stirring the academic pot. In fact nearer the truth, regardless of whether these attributes are accurate, he is a middle-aged depressed man, with a paunch, who in so far that he is dealing with his mid-life crisis he is doing so with the assistance of liquor. The film starts with his arrival at a small Rhode Island college which is housed on a pretty campus. A female colleague (Parker Posey) develops, in double quick time, the hots for him and undergraduate Jill (Emma Stone) more cautiously becomes enthralled. He is less then convinced that his life as a philosopher adds up to much. He, in a diner, with Jill, overhears a conversation in the next booth, recounted by an unhappy divorcee about her custody battle for her children and how biased the judge is. [Spoiler alert] She mentions the judge’s name and as Rhode Island is not that big he devises a plan to help this woman. However she will not know of his handiwork. Murder is on his mind. He has a purpose. His depressive gloom lifts as he sets to work to make his plan work.
Jill is yet another of Allen’s young women entangled with an older man and Emma Stone makes a fine fist of it. Parker Posey is also no slouch as she represents Rita who is much more experienced meat. Joaquin Phoenix as the prize catch is less convincing. Unless the campus was completely devoid of heterosexual men, it is not easy to understand how this moody, alcoholic grouch could be such effective bait for these women. While it is fun to watch him work out the details of his plan, it is hard to understand why he decided to become transfixed by the overheard remark. Unrealistically he makes no attempt to check the veracity of the overheard conversation. He charges ahead with a spring in his step, his depressive gloom lifted. He is going to enrich the life of the divorcee. He is going to be an unsung hero. In other words, the story line groans almost audibly For Woody Allen fans of which rightly there are many. It is doubtful that Irrational Man will end up at or near the top of their favourite Woody Allen movies, of which (depending how you count them) there are approximately fifty. For the rest of the movie-going population, there will likely be moments of pleasure in watching this movie. However on reflection it generates a feeling of indifference. Take it or leave it.
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Woody Allen has enough interesting ideas here to help this become a bit better than what we’re used to seeing in his later-career. Nice review.
It’s amazing he’s still making movies, and nearly one a year. The quality is all over the place though, from one to the next.