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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Movie Review - Irrational Man

Irrational Man (2015)
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, and Jamie Blackley
Directed by Woody Allen

No one will ever mistake Irrational Man for being one of Woody Allen's masterpieces, but it's certainly not one of his disasters.  A middle-of-the-road dramedy, Irrational Man is Allen's somewhat comedic take on Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train.  Here, troubled college philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) moves to a new university to begin teaching a summer session where he meets engaging graduate student Jill Pollard (Emma Stone).  Although Jill is dating fellow student Roy (Jamie Blackley), she immediately falls for Abe's intelligence and what she perceives as power despite the fact that Abe himself is facing internal strife and what he believes to be an existential crisis.  While Abe doesn't initially return Jill's affections, one afternoon while lunching at a diner, the two overhear a woman desperately complaining to her friends about the unfair judge presiding over the custody hearing concerning her children.  Upon hearing this, Abe thinks that helping this woman whom he doesn't even know may be the key to getting him out of his funk.  And how should he help the woman?  What about carrying out the perfect crime (seeing as how there is zero connection between Abe and this unknown woman) by killing the judge presiding over her custody hearing?

Therein is the Hitchcockian spin in Allen's latest feature film which, when it occurs about halfway through, lifts the flick up from a bit of a slow, predictable start.  Phoenix fits right in to the Woody Allen landscape with his downtrodden professor a perfect match for the actor himself who is quite adept at playing depressed men with a bit of anxiety.  (It wouldn't be a Woody Allen film without anxiety creeping in, right?)  While Emma Stone's Jill doesn't stretch the actress in any way, it's a much better character than her somewhat over-the-top role as a kooky psychic in Allen's last feature Magic in the Moonlight.  In fact, everything about Irrational Man is better than that prior feature, despite the fact that this flick, as mentioned, takes a little while to actually get to the meat of its story.  While Phoenix and Stone certainly try to make their relationship patter click in the film's first half, it really doesn't end up mattering much to the overall story which is no fault of the two actors.  Still, Irrational Man falls into the upper half of the Woody Allen flicks I've seen in terms of quality and story, and, while not perfect, creates an engaging atmosphere that comes into its own as the film progresses.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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