Irrational Man is Woody Allen finding a nice middle ground between his comedy and crime genres to pretty good results.
Following the perspectives of a young college girl, Jill, and the “bad boy” philosophy professor, Abe, that has found himself at her university, what starts as a lustful attraction on her part turns into something else by the end. The film starts as a tale of rumor and gossip around Abe and his relationships about campus, but those murmurings turn elsewhere after Abe has a life changing revelation.
Now, you can clearly tell I’m talking around some things here, but their isn’t really a big twist or anything. Abe and Jill’s summer is just best viewed as unadulterated as possible. Allen does a great job of keeping things moving here and never wastes a moment of his ninety minute run time. We often leave a conversation before we feel like we should, but I’ll take a brisk pace over a couple odd edits any day. The evolution of the plot and tonal shifts are also handled with ease, as I was really impressed with Allen’s ability to handle such potentially dark subject matter with such a light touch. All of the film’s biggest laughs are also rooted in the most sinister beats of the film, another testament to Allen’s writing here. The only complaint I have is it feels like things could have been fleshed out/given a bit more breathing room plot wise. But again, I think the trade off for the film’s briskness is probably worth it.
The music selection is also quite the standout here. Allen has always had a good ear of putting music to his films, but something about this one really hooked me. The music is also key to propelling the film along, helping that pace feel even swifter, never letting the viewer disengage from the proceedings.
Irrational Man’s principal cast is one of Allen’s slimmest in some time, but the three main players are all great. Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe and he is great as a man looking for purpose. This is the most “normal” Phoenix has acted in a while, but he turns in as good as a performance that we expect from one of our best working actors these days. I loved his evolution over the film, the wide-eyed optimism he develops, Phoenix plays it perfectly. Emma Stone is also great as a faux? intellectual type who is soooo self-centered and enamored with her self. She is smart and thoughtful, but Stone plays her snooty college student side wonderfully. She also sells the lust for Abe, with Jill’s voiceovers providing a number of the film’s laughs. Parker Posey also does great work in the few scenes we get with her. She has a fantastic chemistry with Phoenix, but it’s the way she interacts with the evolving world around her that really let’s her stand out; I wish we got more of her.
Irrational Man is a solid entry from Woody Allen, with a standout out trio of performances you shouldn’t miss. Maybe a little light on the comedy you might expect going in, the intrigue and playful plotting will keep you engaged from start to finish.