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“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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Irrational Man review: Woody

 

Allen's philosophy lesson is no head

 

trip

 

 

2/5stars

    

Joaquin Phoenix plays a jaded professor, Emma Stone his young flirting buddy in another of the director’s underpowered satires about the fallacy of intellect

By  Peter Bradshaw  - The  Guardian

Woody Allen’sIrrational Manis another of the amiable but forgettable and underpowered jeux d’espritthat he produces with an almost somnambulist consistency and persistence. It’s a tongue-in-cheek mystery which is neither quite scary and serious enough to be suspenseful, nor witty or ironic enough to count as a comedy.

The idea is inspired by Dostoyevsky and Patricia Highsmith.Joaquin Phoenixplays Abe Lucas, a sketchily imagined philosophy professor with a reputation as a devilishly handsome wild man. He is a charismatic lecturer and a great seducer of women, both faculty members and students (the movie is notionally set in the present, but seems to come from a pre-90s age in which this latter campus activity was not rigorously policed and frowned upon). He is an alcoholic and depressive, deeply disenchanted with the meaning and usefulness of philosophy and indeed all cerebral activity and greatly disconcerts his starstruck colleagues with his cynicism. (The movie incidentally rather resembles Marc Lawrence’s comedy The Rewrite, with Hugh Grant as the former hotshot screenwriter forced to earn money by teaching in a provincial college.)

Soon, Abe begins an affair with science lecturer Rita (Parker Posey) and begins to flirt with a brilliant student Jill (Emma Stone) — who, with rather un-ironic absurdity, is also a brilliant pianist. The older woman’s relationship is clearly unimportant compared to the younger. But nothing raises Abe’s saturnine spirits until he just happens to overhear a woman tearfully complaining that a corrupt and vengeful judge intends to find against her in a custody case and ruin her life. It is a eureka moment for Abe: he could murder this judge, no-one could possibly suspect him and this bold act would be doing more real good than a thousand flatulent and meaningless philosophy papers on Kierkegaard. Murder is the answer.

There are one or two nice moments, and some clunkingly improbable and lazily written plot twists, for which the narrative path has been notionally cleared with stitchback references early in the script. They really should either have had more basic plausibility, more genuine hair-raising excitement, or been cleared for us as overtly comic and absurd. Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix and Parker Posey, mosey unconcernedly through a story that never quite grabs you. Abe is supposed to have an edge of melancholy because of a friend of his who died in Iraq — but this side to his personality is never satisfactorily illustrated or confirmed in the drama. There is much talk of leaving the US and going to “Spain” or, with another character, going to “London” and then studying at “Oxford”, places that seem as blandly unreal by repute as the small American town in which the action is unfolding. There is a nice finale, which raises a little laugh, or a smile at any rate, at something that isn’t quite ingenuity, more a sort of effrontery.Woody Allen has touched upon the notion of guilt before, in his heavy-going London drama Match Point, but most importantly in his wonderful Crimes And Misdemeanors, in which the crime is genuinely shocking. Irrational Man is a good idea, a sketch for a movie, but the movie itself is unrealised.

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