Pages Navigation Menu

IRRATIONAL MAN (review)

irrational_man(Editor’s note: This review was originally written for Exclaim! It is published here with their gracious permission.)

IRRATIONAL MAN

Written and Directed by Woody Allen / Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey

Abe: If you learn anything at all from me, it’s that most of philosophy is verbal masturbation.

I’m beginning to be concerned about Woody Allen’s moral compass. Well, more so anyway. If one is to read his films as extensions of his multi-faceted personality – and really how could one read them any other way – then one has got to wonder just how much time Allen spends thinking about murdering another human being and getting away with it. This is especially true after watching his latest film, IRRATIONAL MAN, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone.

At first, IRRATIONAL MAN, appears to be just another typical Allen trip. Phoenix plays Abe, a depressed, alcoholic philosophy professor who has come to a Rhode Island ivy league university to teach for the summer semester. He rambles on about Dostoyevsky and the futility of life while he bounces back and forth between a tepid affair with a fellow professor (Parker Posey, a natural fit for Allen’s neurotic tone) and the affections of one of his students (Stone, Allen’s apparent new muse, having now appeared in back to back Allen films, including last year’s Allen mishap MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT). For reasons unbeknownst to the audience, Abe is the talk of the town, as if no one else of any merit has ever come to town before. The question everyone is asking is whether he will ever shake his funk and realize his true potential. At first it would appear that love will set him free, which is nauseating, but happenstance saves IRRATIONAL MAN from this doomed fate.

Irrational-Man-770x470

After hearing one woman’s tragic story by chance at a restaurant, Abe is reinvigorated (as is the film) when he decides it is his new purpose to end the life of the man who is making this woman’s life a living hell. The question then becomes whether he will actually go through with it and, if he does, whether he can actually get away with it. And while this is a much more interesting question than whether love is truly transformative or not, it is also a question Allen has asked before (see MATCH POINT, CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS ) and answered with much more eloquence than he has here.

3 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Irrational Man?

Share Your Thoughts