Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley
I have been watching Woody Allen’s movies my entire life. The 79 year old director is more of an experience than an auteur at this point, but only if you sit down to watch his one movie per year. The same font type credits, the familiar whimsical music, and unfortunately for Irrational Man, the same character types. Allen’s pattern is 2-3 forgettable films, then you get something like Blue Jasmine that blows everyone away. Allen’s second film with Emma Stone (Birdman, Magic in the Moonlight) isn’t any better than the first, but he yet again has her fawning over an older man, instead of writing her something interesting to do.
Abe (Phoenix) is a well-known and published philosopher come to the small college to bring his insights and brooding to the students and faculty. His presence almost instantly causes a stir, especially with vivacious biology professor Rita (Posey) and the eager red headed students Jill (Stone). Abe has lost purpose in his life, he can’t function sexually and often thinks about suicide instead of the future. Jill is determined to change this, even if it means cheating on her loving boyfriend Roy (Blackley). It’s only when Abe overhears a stranger’s misery with local a judge that his life is filled with purpose and stamina, if he can help this poor woman get rid of her problem if might snap out of his rut.
"Woody Allen only knows two genres, comedy and irony."
Irrational Man’s introductory moments feel more like a collage of scenes cut very short and stuck together. We see the arrival of Abe, tour his on campus house, faculty party, first weeks of teaching and flirtations with Rita all in five minutes! After Allen skips through the introductions he clearly finds monotonous (as if to say, the audience already knows these characters, they are the same as last time), things assume the normal pace. Woody Allen only knows two genres, comedy and irony. Irrational Man certainly isn’t funny and what clever insights it might have are washed away by his curious portrayal of women, especially with Stone’s character.
The romanticized and poetic language spewing from Phoenix’s mouth is off putting. His character does a 180 in personality, allowing the actor to play two different versions of the same guy. It’s Jill I had the most problem with, I actually found her revolting, and I like Stone as an actress. It wasn’t just that she was cheating on her loving, dopey boyfriend, but the way she throws herself at Abe, begs to change him, and them isn’t happy with the result, running back to boyfriend. The only other major female character played by Posey is also throwing herself at Abe, regardless of his potential for murder or depression. The characters are all too familiar, as Allen simply drops caricatures from previous films into a new yearly episode.
Emma Stone is one of Allen’s worst muses.