Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Despite the high praise he receives from students and his fellow academics, Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Phoenix) is severely struggling to justify to himself the reason for living. One day, after overhearing a conversation between complete strangers, he decides to commit an extreme act, and in doing so finds a new found energy and enthusiasm for life, but at what cost to himself and those around him?
With output at the rate of one film per year, Woody Allen is most certainly a prolific filmmaker, but quantity does of course not necessarily mean quality. His output has certainly been inconsistent of late, with some great films like Match Point, Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris, but also with some below par efforts (Cassandra’s Dream, anyone?). Allen of course has his own style, and though there are certainly many pleasures to be had in Irrational Man, it just always feels like we have been here before Woody!
At the of heart of Irrational Man are many of the themes that Allen usually examines, and he does this with the utmost intelligence, observation and wry humour we are all used to, and of course not to mention a fair dollop of Dostoyevsky! However this familiarity makes things a little predictable and therefore makes the film overall a little forgettable, but there is no denying it is still wonderfully entertaining in its playful observations and depictions of what are ultimately quite dark and sobering themes.
In their respective roles Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone are superb and highly convincing. Allen often resorts to internal voice overs for his two protagonists as they justify their actions and thoughts, and though this does further show that he is perhaps on slight autopilot for Irrational Man, it is used effectively and helps the narrative to be told in a time-effective way that makes sure the film never gets boring.
Allen is of course a master at unflinchingly depicting the darker side of human nature, and the very subtle and po-faced depiction of the very dark themes that lie at the centre of the narrative sometimes makes for an unnerving viewing experience. This is certainly when the film is at its best, but these moments are very few and far between and generally it just feels that both the film and its writer/director or just taking everything gently in their stride, and therefore so do we the audience. It goes to prove that even when on autopilot, Woody Allen can still deliver great entertainment, and Irrational Man is undoubtedly a highly enjoyable morality tale on the darker elements of the human condition, but it just all feels way too familiar Mr Allen!
Though it won’t offer anything new to those familiar with Allen’s recent work, Irrational Man is still an enjoyably wry humoured exploration of the darker side of the human condition. Unfortunately familiar does also mean predictable and forgettable.