Irrational Man Review - Another Year, The Same Old Woody Allen Film

Blue Jasmine it ain't.

Rating: ˜…˜… Another year, another film from Woody Allen. The 79-year-old's insistence on directing a feature every year, without fail, has produced mixed results. His working method sees him often times pull ideas out his idea drawer, a literal drawer in his desk that is filled with potential stories for films that he's had over the years. Invariably, some are stronger than others. Last year's Magic in the Moonlight, also starring Emma Stone, was clichéd and lightweight, a disappointment after 2013's stunning Blue Jasmine, which was powered by an Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett performance. I was hoping that Irrational Man would be elevated by a similarly impressive performance from the selective Joaquin Phoenix, fresh off the polarising (but underrated) Inherent Vice. Phoenix is good as troubled (but brilliant, of course) philosophy professor Abe Lucas, who arrives at the fictional Braylin college campus, and inadvertently woos Stone's impressionable Jill Pollard, a student (a brilliant one, of course). She is in a healthy relationship with a nice guy but simply cannot help falling for her untamed teacher.

Abe is an impotent alcoholic and a depressive, incapable of forming meaningful relationships. After overhearing the plight of a woman who is going to lose custody of her children thanks to a corrupt judge, however, he is struck with the inspiration to carry out his murder and help her, knowing that he won't be implicated as a suspect. Things, however, do not go according to plan and the plot snowballs from there in a rather predictable manner. It's all very familiar territory; the oh-so-brilliant privileged-but-tormented academic, the younger woman falling for the older man, the mechanics of how to commit the perfect murder (Crimes and Misdemeanours and Match Point). This is Woody Allen's cinematic universe, so one should probably expect to see some of these elements play themselves out. Unfortunately, the film isn's as funny or dramatic as a substantial amount of the director's other, better work. The performances are good, but the characters under-wrought. It is hard to feel sympathy for (and identify with) these people. It is also hard to imagine a world in which a student-teacher affair would be so blatantly flaunted and accepted. This is an idealised existence, but a banal one. The idea is cute, granted, and the film has some funny moments and provides the requisite one-liners ('I was just out shopping at the liquor store') but, ultimately, it is only partially realised.
Irrational Man is released in the UK on September 11th.

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Student of film. Former professional wrestler. Supporter of Newcastle United. Don't cry for me, I'm already dead...

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