Irrational Man

2016-04-22 09:25

What it's about:

A tormented small town philosophy professor finds himself in an existential crisis only to realise a new purpose for his life when he begins a relationship with one of his students. After overhearing a conversation about a troubling injustice, he decides to commit a crime, but it's not long before clues start adding up.

What we thought:

Irrational Man is another of Woody Allen’s neurotic philosophical soirees into the human psyche – this time into what gives life meaning. We are exposed to the foolish ramblings of a man who has fallen too deep into his dark philosophy regarding life, and although this fits with the title, sitting through it feels more like a boring philosophy lecture than enlightened entertainment.

A new philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives at a university with much hubbub around his reputation with words and women, yet finds himself unable to find any joy in his existence. A small spark is ignited through his relationship with a student (Emma Stone) and a fellow professor (Parker Posey), but when he decides to take a drastic turn in his life, he finally finds light in his depression.

Allen’s films are always a gamble on whether his anxiety-ridden screenplays hit the mark with their exploration of the human condition, or whether they become convoluted and snobby dialogue that is thrown at the audience in the hopes of making one hit. Irrational Man unfortunately falls under the latter. Not only does the existential crisis of the lead character seem like the moody tantrum of a teenager, but Phoenix’s fake beer gut is the most distracting object on screen. At one point I stared at it so long I didn’t pay attention to what he was actually saying. Either the actor gains a few extra pounds for the chubby professor look, or just leave him as is, but the protruding belly on an otherwise normal looking body was creepy to say the least.

Stone was okay in her awe-struck character of the worldly professor, but was hardly worth hyping about. Any flaws in the build of student character in love with her professor were more to do with the writing than the actress, who was overshadowed by veteran Posey, whose character had a bit more intrigue. Phoenix followed Allen’s direction wholeheartedly, and does show his ability to follow his director’s lead precisely. But for anyone to enjoy his performance wholly, you have to enjoy the Woody Allen neurosis, otherwise you’ll be left twitching in your seat with discomfort.

A thoroughly boring film, despite the director/writer’s attempts to liven it up with some weird twist at the end that discredits the whole film instead of ratifying its core message, which still eludes me. If you’re keen for some philosophy jargon and pretentiousness thrown around as if it matters to any of the characters, then Irrational Man might just be for you. If not, you’re better of getting intelligent stimulation somewhere else.

Read more on:    joaquin phoenix  |  emma stone  |  movies

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