Irrational man

There is a new Woody Allen film, and this time it is extraordinary complex and surprising. It is very dark (think of Crimes and misdemeanors), and I’m not even sure it is a comedy. But neither is it a drama, in the usual sense of the word. Like most of Allen’s films, he is concerned more with discussion on ideas rather than fitting in any particular genre. It stars Joaquin Phoenix playing philosophy professor Abe Lucas, a depressed, pot-bellied, hard-drinking, middle age man who just got a new teaching gig at a Newport, Rhode Island university. From the moment he arrives, people start talking. Some women find him cute. One of them is young student Jill Pollard (Emma Stone) who quickly becomes his friend. They have long walks together talking about Kirkegaard and Sartre. Hey! This is an Allen film. Jill tells her boyfriend, Roy (Jamie Blackley), and her family that she and Abe are only friends, but all she talks about is Abe. Jill has made attempts, but Abe is not interested. He is too depressed, he’s trying to finish his next book, he drinks too much, and he’s impotent. Rita (Parker Posey), another teacher, practically threw herself on Abe almost from the moment she saw him. But Abe could not perform. Abe’s life is too much of a mess and he does not want or need his life to be more screwed up than it is by sleeping with a student. They maintain a platonic friendship. One day, they overhear a conversation: A woman fighting for custody of her child, is having problems because her rich husband is paying the corrupt judge to rule in his favor. “Would it be right to kill a corrupt, immoral person like that judge?’, they ask. “Yes, it would be right.” Secretly, Abe decide to kill the judge, without telling Jill. Abe start following him, find the right poison and kills him. After the murder, Abe feels free, liberated. He is not depressed anymore, he can write again. His ideas are clear. He can now have sex and starts sleeping with Jill. He sees the murder as the best thing he has ever done. Allen writes the script with Abe and Jill narrating the story. There are several reasons why I was fascinated by Irrational man. I was actually on the edge of my seat by Allen’s casual way of telling a story. I could not believe this was a Woody Allen film. Yes, it has some of the same elements that we usually find in his film, but it also a very original and exciting. It’s fun to watch Phoenix create with ease this worn out, cynic character and bring him back to life. Emma Stone is even better. Her Jill is innocent and knowing all at once, the most intelligent and the dumbest and she does it simply,  in the most honest and fresh way. I like actors who underplay, and I find Parker Posey so compelling here. Without ever seeming to want to pull the cover and keeping it all on her side, in the few scenes she has, Posey plays so well with her partners that she makes them shine (that’s what good actors do, you know) and you can see the fun she has doing so. Rejoice! There is a new Woody Allen. And this one is very good.


Irrational man

Directed by:
Woody Allen

Screenplay by:
Woody Allen

Emma Stone
Joaquin Phoenix
Parker Posey
Jamie Blackley

96 min.

Rated 14A


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