Irrational Man: Film Review
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Director: Woody Allen
It's fair to say that the recent output from director Woody Allen has not been his finest work.
Magic in the Moonlight was weaker than most of Allen's output, putting the brilliance of Blue Jasmine in the shade. So to say there are expectations of the new film is perhaps an understatement.
Irrational Man is the story of Joaquin Phoenix, an at-sea and tormented philosophy lecturer Abe Lewis whose predilection for single malt whisky and womanising wayshas led to him getting a reputation before he takes a role at a Rhode Island College. Upon arrival, Abe gains the admiration of Jill a bright student who takes a shine to the professor and his tormented ways.
But Abe's not interested, both in Jill but also in bored and horny professor Rita (Posey) who wants to see if his reputation is deserved.
However, Abe finds purpose in his drifting when he overhears a conversation at a diner and decides to make a moral act his reason for living...
Irrational Man is frankly, insufferable in parts.
A clutch of self-absorbed, thinly written narcissists blow in and out of the film as often as the over-used voiceover and end up grating from beginning to end.
Allen may be wanting to provoke debate over what you would do, and incite a discussion over right and wrong, but the plotting of the piece, coupled with the abysmal characters make this a difficult piece to embrace.
Phoenix seems wasted as the pot-bellied Lewis initially, but he finds his gusto when he sets aside the torment of Lewis to embrace his misplaced and misguided moral code. Maybe the rush-to-the-end film would have worked better as a two-hander and the ethics and philosophical quandaries of the proposal would have made for some fizzing and crackling dialogue if Allen were on his game.
But sadly, he's not.
And nowhere is this more evident than the continual repetition of jazz song The "In" Crowd by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, an upbeat tune that's consistently wheeled out by Allen to herald the transitions of scenes or the dramatic moment. It's intensely annoying, utterly grating and infuriating, something which comes to symbolise the film itself as it relies heavily on the preponderance of voiceover to furnish the plot.
Extraneous characters, which were badly written at the start, flit in and out, reminding you of their presence but never troubling your grey-matter and only serving to remind you how shallow the whole thing is. Stone is reasonably well-serviced in terms of becoming Allen's latest muse, but even she can't shake the annoyance that washes over all of the inhabitants of this kitchen sink drama.
If anything, Irrational Man feels like it could have benefited from a bit more beef and chutzpah into its script - it lacks the Allen touch and is as much at sea as its morally lost lead character.