Of course it can’t be avoided that Woody Allen has been under some scrutiny due to various controversies and accusations recently but then this isn’t exactly a rare occurrence anymore, that’s just the world we live in today. Focusing instead on the film at hand, Irrational Man the story of Abe Lucas a university professor, somewhat professional philosopher and general drunk arrogant academic and his interesting if a little strange story of ethics and affairs, prominently with student Jill (Emma Stone) and fellow teacher Rita (Parker Posey). Allen’s last outing with Magic In The Moonlight was fairly disappointing so this film could be considered possible redemption.
Joaquin Phoenix is also no stranger to controversy and after his performances in The Master, Her and Inherent Vice he seemed the perfect choice for an Allen film. Phoenix has acting the troubled man down to a tee, it’s not his first attempt by any stretch, and does a great job with Abe. Though my first perception of him was to consider whether in fact he was meant to be the first man to get pregnant with the gut on him, but then again perhaps that big belly is full of scotch. Abe is cleverly not a man you’d fall for and not a man you instantly want to save or protect and yet there’s something that does make you want to see him pull his act together. The question is who will be the one to help him Jill (Stone) or Rita (Posey), or something else altogether?.
For a large part of the film Stone’s character doesn’t do much to impress, mostly just being the student whose in love with the idea of having an affair with her intriguing professor, the lame duck that needs someone to inspire and build him back up. Luckily that does change as time goes on and she becomes more developed as a character, though intelligent but not entirely complicated. The same goes for Posey’s character, the typical bored unhappy wife eager for something more exciting which is exactly what she thinks she’ll get with Abe. Both of them become enamoured with Abe, and you could argue he with them although I’m not convinced the alcoholic arrogant man is quite capable of it. Though it is another example of Emma Stone being paired with an ill-suited older man.
This is a film that needs not to be judged by initial impressions, this is certainly not your usual chatty romance, it is much more. I was surprised by how well it does keep your attention, it may be no adrenaline rushing action or thriller but it’s clever and intriguing and asks some interesting questions of what people are capable of, given the opportunity. It’s a huge improvement on the well-meaning but boring Magic In The Moonlight, and perhaps Allen is back on track giving us a more decent follow up to the hit that was Blue Jasmine.