Irrational Man

With a directing career just shy of fifty years, Woody Allen’s prolific back catalogue has three types of films: ‘masterpieces’ such as INTERIORS (1978); ‘pretty good’ such as WHATEVER WORKS (2009); and the ‘odd one’ that doesn’t work. IRRATIONAL MAN is in the ‘pretty good’ league.

Abe, played by a beer-bellied (Joaquin Phoenix), is a brilliant philosophy professor who has taken a new post at an American college. If the rumours circulating the campus are true, Abe likes a drink and his female students. Impressed with an essay written by star student Jill (Emma Stone), he forms a sexually charged friendship with her. Another woman (Parker Posey) tries to seduce Abe, but he’s got problems, his life no longer has meaning, and in the bedroom he’s floppier than an early 80s floppy disk. To escape this funk he decides to commit the perfect murder. But the question is, can he do it?

Allen’s films are always beautifully shot, but here scenes are not constantly bookended with those Allen-esque images of attractive cities, on which he so often collaborated with the late, great cinematographer Gordon Willis. This has a nice freshness to it, giving the die-hard fans something different. The film’s highlights are the terrific acting, especially the leads; plus the great script by Allen. He has created two well-crafted characters, yet he doesn’t push for those zippy one-liners that he so often awards himself when acting. Instead, the jokes are sophisticated, measured and delivered without loading the punchline. IRRATIONAL MAN is a pretty good film, and the upside to this is Allen’s ‘pretty good’ films are often better than most directors’ best. Well worth a watch, and not just for the Allen fans.


One Response to “Irrational Man”


    Considering oneself an Allen die-hard, after lengthily writing a [much-changed] piece about his 45 Years in Film for New Empress Magazine’s 2011 (?) Yearbook, the first instinct was :

    (1) To rate it around 42 (ace is high) in the ~45 films of his seen, and

    (2) To think it – yet again, after Cassandra’s Dream (2007) and Match Point (2005) – one more visitation of what Crimes and Misdemeano[u]rs (1989) has never been bettered for

    Standing back, seeking what Allen was after, there may be searchable glimmers of potential, but he has been with Darius Khondji (his director of photography from Midnight in Paris (2011) onwards ?) and Alisa Lepselter (as editor) for at least five films, and, here, it shows that this is *not*, say, Willis with Susan E. Morse… ?

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