Irrational Man

Irrational Man

(M) Joaquin Pheonix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey

Abe Lucas (Joaquin Pheonix) is a cynical, internally tormented philosophy professor with a drinking problem. As he arrives in Rhode Island to start a new job in a small town College, his bad boy reputation gets there first. The students and facility are abuzz with his arrival, but no one more so than Jill (Emma Stone). Having Abe as her new professor prompts Jill to look deeper into the enigmatic man, and the two start a close friendship (even though soon that is not enough for Jill). Abe and Jill become joined at the hip, constantly talking deeply about their views on life and its purpose. During this time Abe is also pursued by a fellow philosophy teacher, Rita (Parker Posey). Rita is unhappily married, and clings to the idea of escaping far away mysterious and moody philosopher.

All of this attention is meaningless to Abe though, who is too numbed by sucking down a whiskey bottle (at home, in the classroom, in the car) to feel anything at all. He is in the midst of an unsettling existential crisis, and as he mentions in narration, has hit absolute rock bottom with his life. That is, until one day fate puts forward an opportunity for Abe to prove his purpose – by murdering a corrupt judge to make the world a better place – giving his life a new found sense of meaning and clarity.

Joaquin’s acting adds charisma to the setting, but he’s held back by a script that doesn’t do justice to the complexity (or, at least, potential complexity) of his character. Similarly, Emma Stone is passionate and fun throughout, but this doesn’t sit well with a plot that at times is awkward and (frankly) convoluted. Still, even though the film meanders along at a steady pace, it does have its powerful moments.

If there’s one reason to watch it, it’s a truly unforgettable twist in the last five minutes that will leave you jaw dropped to the floor.

Woody Allen has a reputation for the cooky and off-beat, and this film attempts to stand beside his greats like Blue Jasmine and Manhattan. Unfortunately though, all attempts are in vain. By choosing a plot inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but treating the subject of human nihilism and internal torment with quirky characters and a tongue-in cheek plot, the suspense just isn’t there.  At its heart, Irrational Man can’t decide whether it wants to be a dark and brooding exploration of the human soul, or a light-hearted comedy with incredible characters in unbelievable situations.

I think it tries to be both, and in doing so actually achieves neither.

Looking Deeper

What does the Bible say about murder? (Romans 12:19)

What does the Bible say about idolising others? (Jonah 12:8)

Toya Gattas



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