Since director Woody Allen makes a film a year, it’s easy to forget the bad ones and embrace the great ones. I can’t name his last five films, but I remember “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris”, so its lately been hit or miss which is fine considering most of the 90’s all the way to the early 2000’s were a blur as far as his films.
This year’s entry is “Irrational Man” starring Joaquin Phoenix as Abe, a burnt out college professor who arrives at his new school and encounters the free spirited faculty member Rita (Parker Posey), and intellectual stimulating student Jill (Emma Stone). With little desire to live, Abe is just floating thorough his existence with nothing but his past works to cling to. But a chance overheard conversation catapults Abe to take control of his life as he finds a new reason for living along with a fresh zest for life again. But as his newfound freedom comes at a complicated cost, what will he do and how far will he go to keep a hold on this rebirth he’s given himself?
“Irrational Man” covers similar ground Allen tread 10 years ago in “Match Point”, with similar relationship complications, and the desire to follow though on absurd notions to keep out of trouble for the main characters. Only here what hurts the film is the dialogue which is mostly characters quoting authors in voice-overs (both of them), and when they are talking to each other as well. It feels so scattered, and disjointed that even for a Woody Allen film with usually has one character and his multiple relationships intertwining till they come to a head, when you get there you wonder why you were on the journey to begin with.
Phoenix and Stone, who are both amazing actors here decide to do what most in their position do. When in a Woody Allen film, read what’s on the page. There is no doubt to Allen’s talent, especially when you look at his body of work, but here there feels like so little of him and so much of other writers and philosophers you look forward to the predictable ending and cheesy conclusion, just so it could all be over. I’d say he should take a break, but since he’s hitting 80 years old this year, and is still cranking out these films, I can settle for the misses, and hope for the hits.
–Robert L. Castillo