"It’s breezy, whimsy and with an evanescent European feel to it, which makes its suburban setting quaint in nature as it complements its story"
Having admired patches of Woody Allen’s work over the years, with the most recent being Midnight in Paris, his latest outing, Irrational Man, feels very much in the mould of the Allen aesthetic and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone.
Phoenix is an infamous philosophy professor, Abe, who’s plagued with insecurity, his demons, and a past that inevitably follows him wherever he goes. He’s an alcoholic and known for bedding more than one of his student in the past, which bodes well for his latest educationally centric job.
Cue an intriguing meeting with one of his spritely student Jill (Stone), whereby the pair strike up quite a friendship that invites Abe to explore the boundaries of the human psyche, mirroring and addressing the very philosophical questions he teaches in his classes.
On-screen chemistry progresses Abe and Jill’s friendship into an inevitable romance, with understated, accomplished performances from both leads. There’s a strong support to that blossoming, complex relationship via the faculty of Abe’s peers, including Parker Posey, who contributes somewhat to Abe’s rise and downfall.
It’s breezy, whimsy and with an evanescent European feel to it, which makes its suburban setting quaint in nature as it complements its story. Well, until a point, that is, because once Abe regains confidence in both himself and humanity, he commits an act that challenges the audience to either stick with him or abandon him, but also manage to sufficiently increase the small-time stakes as we anticipate the inevitable outcome of Abe’s doomed proceedings.
With a more than manageable runtime of around 90 minutes, it’s enough time to establish our characters and setting – which primarily revolves around Abe and Jill – and plays out an amusing tale of one man’s desire to be more than he is, yet in the most irrational way that’s not without an air of logic and, dare I say, good intent behind it.
Perfect for a jaunty, thought-provoking afternoon cinema visit, Irrational Man isn’t one of Allen’s best or an effort that’ll attract Oscar buzz like Blue Jasmine, but it’s worth checking out as an overall solid, if not slightly too safe movie that emerges.