Title: Irrational Man
Director: Woody Allen
It is indeed difficult to write about something that has left you cold. This being a recent Woody Allen film, is the only reason for writing this review, and only because of this I have decided to provide two different grades at the end. The first will be my fair assessment of the film had it been directed by another director, and the second will be the grade I would choose for it being a Woody Allen film. For I believe that the script would never have made it into a film if it hadn’t been written by Woody Allen. Having said that, I would like to inform the reader that Woody Allen has directed some of my favourite comedies -perhaps the funniest- such as Sleeper and Love and Death. Thus, I will try to be more lenient in this review.
Is the film bad? It certainly isn’t. But it is almost an indifferent film. Joaquin Phoenix is a controversial Academic named Abe to whom both his student Jill (Emma Stone) and Rita (Parker Posey) fall in love with. While Abe starts off as a rather boring character, we realise in the middle of the movie that there is a rather dark side to his taciturn self: while eavesdropping on a random diner conversation, he decides to commit the perfect murder. I’ve read that the plot is reminiscent of Crime and Punishment and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train (which later became the Hitchcock classic). In my opinion, none of these holds true. While, in the aforementioned works, murder is used as a device for a deeper ethical-philosophical debate, here the weak plot with rather silly twists deters the viewer from such an analysis.
The performances are usual. What does that mean? Actors and actresses carry out their roles OK, since the film is not demanding when it comes to performances. Woody Allen’s flat, one-dimensional direction, as is the case in his latest films, does not allow the film’s genre to develop. This is a rather poignant, often ironic style that made his comedies often stand out from the rest, but seems to lead nowhere when applied to the mystery/thriller genre. And speaking of comedies, the film does include some awkwardly-delivered one-liners which led me thinking if they were meant to be funny or plain weird (or are they the same after all?) In addition, there are some exaggerations when it comes to the script: the characters keep mentioning moving to Europe, Spain and Oxford in specific. As another reviewer has suggested, these are highly unrealistic destinations. Yes, they do sound rather idealistic and romantic – maybe this could work in a romantic 19th century novel or a chick flick, but here these references, especially when made by academics, seemed highly out of place.
However, not wishing to nit-pick to this level, I will conclude by simply saying that this film doesn’t have much to offer. Is it a pleasant way to spend one’s time? I don’t think this is really what matters when it comes to filmmaking, especially when created by such a talented director. I would only recommend this film to the viewer who would want to boast about having watched the latest Woody Allen.
Grade for being a Woody Allen film (hence, coming from a respected director): 4/11
Grade had it been directed by someone else: 2/11