2015 / Directed by Woody Allen.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I adore Woody Allen and whenever I see that Windsor typeface appear on screen I become overwhelmed with a sense of romanticism. Those opening titles are always accompanied by a whimsical piece of music and while his soundtracks are never far removed from one another, they always establish the perfect mood.
IRRATIONAL MAN is his latest film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey. From the outset it distinguishes itself as one of Allen's darker projects and recalls similar themes to MATCH POINT and BLUE JASMINE. In fact the amalgamation of those two films is a great way to describe it. Phoenix plays a tortured alcoholic philosophy professor whose reputation precedes him and who struggles to find purpose with his life. When a sinister theoretical idea comes to mind, he suddenly sustains a new lease on life and entertains the notion of putting his thoughts into action. With two attached women both desperate to be his lovers he is confronted with all sorts of exciting new possibilities. The narrative fluctuates between fanciful and mischievous and also spirals into some dark and sinister territory.
While I can accept that some people might struggle with IRRATIONAL MAN I was personally swept up by it. Phoenix and Stone are excellent and without their convincing performances the film could have easily teetered on disaster... but hey, Allen is a genius when it comes to casting and has the clout to get his way every time. I'm no fan of Emma Stone and I do think that her character could have been better cast (to suit my tastes, hehe), but she is great nonetheless.
The script is a tricky one to critique because, while the narrative is fluent, the dialogue is complex. With the story being deeply seeded in philosophical concepts, the language is so dense with scholarly jargon that much of it flew right over my head. I am willing to give Allen the benefit of the doubt and go along with his every word. It all sounds smart and I'm sure it is smart. For a layman like me it was an easy sell with the help of stunning cinematography and a fantastic soundtrack.
IRRATIONAL MAN is another Woody Allen hit for me and I came away from it with the same awe that I always get with his films. What a prolific and unstoppable movie-making machine this guy is, and at 80 years of age it's incredible that he's showing no signs of slowing down. Right now he is developing a TV series for Amazon, which he is writing and directing. He is on the record stating that the whole thing is a mistake and that he is terrified of humiliation... yeah well, my money is on him all the way. I can't wait.