Irrational Man Review

Irrational Man

Irrational Man turns out to be the perfect name for Woody Allen’s new film; unfortunately, it applies more to its feted director than his titular character.

Abe Lucas is a washed up writer who now gets by as a philosophy professor.

His back-story is the stuff of suburban legend, even though half of it patently isn’t true, yet as Abe bounces from university to university, his mythology grows greater and greater.

As does his ever-expanding waistline.

Having experienced enough to have fallen out of love with life, Abe rocks up on autopilot at another campus to teach some more impressionable young things about the finer parts of Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche et al.

Predictably, Professor Lucas catches the eye of one of his students who clearly yearns for more than just a philosophy lesson from her new teacher.

But as their fledgling relationship begins to blossom, an overheard conversation in a local diner changes the path of this irrational man and equally irrational film for the worse.

I still haven’t watched any classic Woody Allen films like Annie Hall, but I have bought into his recent cinematic renaissance.

Unlike everyone else, I didn’t care as much for Midnight In Paris, but To Rome With Love was entertaining and the Cate Blanchett inspired Blue Jasmine was quite brilliant.

Which is why I’m disappointed Irrational Man turned out to be so, well, irrational.

It starts out interestingly enough, largely because of Joaquin Phoenix’s and Emma Stone’s star quality rather than the story of another female ingénue becoming smitten by an older, more experienced man.

Though at least Stone doesn’t play Phoenix’s step daughter.

Still, there are some splendidly sharp lines that made me hope Irrational Man would pan out as some sort of male companion piece to the beautifully observed study of female ambition that is Blue Jasmine.

Alas, Allen decides to insert a ridiculous plot device at the beginning of Irrational Man’s second act instead, skewing everything that follows.

What could have been a very interesting exploration of the vanity and vulnerability of burnt-out, middle-aged men in search of a reason for being, morphs into an insipid by the numbers ‘thriller’ some kid fresh out of a screenplay writing workshop would be embarrassed by.

If Woody Allen’s name wasn’t on this film, it would never have been made and Phoenix and Stone certainly wouldn’t have attached their stars to this cinematic wagon.

Worst of all, Allen’s signature lines dry up too as we rush towards an increasingly ludicrous, convenient and irrational ending.

So Woody’s 50th film turns out to be more Match Point than Blue Jasmine, but only an irrational man would write off this prolific auteur from making another modern classic next time.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2015