Review – Irrational Man

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Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey
Director: Woody Allen
Certificate: 12A (much alcohol is consumed)
Running Time: 96 mins
Release Date: 11th September 2015

The campus of a fancy east coast college is abuzz about the arrival of new philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Phoenix), with the excitement split roughly equally between those who value his genius and others more concerned with the rumours of a many splendoured sex life. The reality is somewhat underwhelming, as Abe turns out to be a pot-bellied, impotent alcoholic with little in the way of academic substance, such a lack of joie de vivre that he uses Russian Roulette as a teaching aid. Even being the object of the affections of both wide-eyed student Jill (Stone) and bored chemistry teacher Rita (Posey) can do little to raise his spirits. That is, until a chance encounter in a coffee shop gives him new purpose in life, as he sets out to commit the perfect murder

The central concept is a good one, with Phoenix’s character finally finding a practical application for his philosophical musings as he self-justifies the murder of one perfect stranger that might improve the life of another. It’s possibly the first instance in history where commit a heinous crime has made someone a better person, and the philosophical knots that Abe ties himself in to rationalise things are great to watch

Slightly less great to watch, unfortunately, are the principal female characters. Both Stone and Posey are swept off their feet with an ease that doesn’t so much border on cliché as it does forcefully seize control of cliché’s territory using a fleet of tanks. Even after recognising him as a quite ludicrously flawed human being, they continue to hang upon his every word because he’s the sort of smouldering, complicated genius that Woody Allen clearly believes he himself would be in Phoenix’s body. Stone’s character even goes so far as to self-identify as being the cliched student who falls for their college professor, which if anything makes it worse. The central murder plot would be every bit as interesting without any of it, but apparently Allen saw yet another opportunity to pair up a leading man with a much younger actress and just couldn’t help himself

It’s a mixed bag, is Irrational Man, but the talented cast and fun central theme do enough to tip it firmly into “watchable” territory

Our Verdict: 6/10


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