“I couldn’t remember the reason for living and when I did, it wasn’t convincing.”
Woody Allen makes movies so regularly that you can almost set your watch by them. And with his regulatory and prolific output, comes plenty of derision. Every movie is either heralded as a return to form, or condemned as proof of him being long past his prime. But here’s the thing, even when he doesn’t make amazing movies, Woody Allen makes really good movies. Which is why I’ll watch everything he makes, including the pretty universally shrugged at Irrational Man.
Able Lucas (Joaquín Phoenix) is a college philosophy professor who has hit a wall. He drinks, has a reputation as a philanderer, and is a tittle on the self destructive side. But he finds a reason to be via one his students, Jill (Emma Stone). She’s smart, confident, engaging and fascinated by the tragic, older man. Their friendship gains the attention of other faculty and students, but Abe is determined to make sure things stay on the up and up.
A fling with a co-worker (Parker Posey as Rita) and an obsession with a dodgy local judge are enough to keep Abe distracted for a while, but the attraction and chemistry between him and Jill can only be denied for so long. And just when it feels like Irrational Man is predictably going down the path of one kind of movie, it swings in a totally unexpected, weird, dark direction.
Woody Allen doesn’t do himself any favours. If you know anything at all about his private life, it’s impossible to watch this story of a middle aged man seducing a 20 year old hottie, and not have certain preconceptions about this movie and its story. But there’s another preconception about Woody Allen that should be considered, he’s a pretty great writer. So as icky as the relationship between Phoenix and Stone could have been, the story of Irrational Man makes it totally organic and totally believable.
I keep assuming I’m gonna suffer from Emma Stone fatigue. Every time she pops up in a movie, which is roughly every seven minutes, I think this is gonna be the time when I burn out on her. But I’ll be buggered red if she isn’t delightful enough to kill it over and over and over again. And seeing her here, in a Woody Allen movie, she really reminded me of one of his former muses, Diane Keaton. There’s a certain kind of enthusiasm and excitement to Jill, similar to Keaton in movies like Manhattan Murder Mystery, that makes it impossible to not be charmed by her.
Even at his worst, and I don’t think this movie is anywhere near that, Woody Allen makes sure I’m always intrigued about what he might do next. Irrational Man is a really good movie by itself, but it also makes me realise that even after all of these decades and at his advanced age, Woody Allen is a great story teller and film maker. Irrational Man won’t go down as one of his best, but it’s proof that he still has plenty of life in him and knows how to make movies in a way that no one else does.