It has been a semi-bad past couple of years for Woody Allen. 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight scored fair reviews with critics & now 2015’s Irrational Man scored at 42% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course I had to give the film a chance, and I did not like it.
Both directed and written by Woody Allen, Allen returns with Emma Stone in the leading female role, with Joaquin Phoenix in the leading male role. The film takes place in present day Rhode Island, centering around an odd philosophy professor that has just transferred from a different college. The performances are somewhat strong, but the writing is all over the place, failing to create an interesting story.
Abe (Phoenix) has arrived at a small town campus near Newport, Rhode Island, and he is already the talk of the town. He is known for being a womanzier and alcoholic. One student in particular, Jill (Stone), is fascinated with his ideas, her feelings grow very strong for Abe, jeopardizing her relationship with Roy (played by Jamie Blackley). And she is not the only one after Abe’s love. Fellow professor Rita (played by Parker Posey) is also after Abe’s affection, jeopardizing her marriage.
As the film goes on, and the people start to learn more about Abe, Rita starts dropping by for a drink and to sleep with Abe, while Jill is desperately trying to win Abe over, even though he is her professor. What these ladies don’t know is that Abe is a disillusioned idealist, who comes to realize his inability to change the world. But fate changes when Abe and Jill are having dinner in a diner. The two of them are listening in on a conversation about a woman’s divorce case, and how she wishes the judge would drop dead from a heart attack. Abe starts to get ideas in his head about helping this woman out.
Not telling anyone, Abe comes up with a plan to kill the judge involved in this woman’s case. This way he can do something good for the world, but also do it in a way that no one will have any suspicion that it was him (as he has no ties to the case or judge). Once the act is completed, the town cannot stop talking about the crime, and Jill starts to wonder: Did Abe do it?
Joaquin Phoenix gives a fair performance as Abe, as it is nothing that we haven’t seen before. To tell you the truth, his character is neither interesting or sexy, which deems to wonder why women are so attracted to him. Emma Stone’s performance is perky, and she delivers her lines quite well, but why did she chose to play a character in love with a boring man. What’s so great about Abe? The same goes for Parker Posey, who does well with what she is working with. But why does she love him so much? Is it the sense of mystery or adventure?
I personally think Allen’s screenplay is not good. It’s sort of all over the place, trying to be a comedy, somewhat suspenseful, romantic film with no interesting lead male character or plot. It’s another one of Allen’s ideas that only he can fully appreciate in his very “out-there” world. But direction wise, his films are always solid.
Irrational Man is not one of Allen’s best film. In fact, I think it’s his most boring and self-involved films in a long time. It’s possibly one of my worst films of 2015. Hopefully his 2016 film with Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey & Judy Davis will score some better reviews… Rated R.