Saturday, April 9, 2016
IRRATIONAL MAN (2015)
Written & Directed By: Woody Allen
Cinematography By: Darius Khondji
Editor: Alisa Lepselter
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Ethan Phillips, Joe Blackely, Robert Petkoff, Sophie Von Haselberg
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review
A new philosophy professor arrives on a small town campus near Newport, Rhode Island. His name, Abe Lucas. His reputation : bad. Abe is said to be a womanizer and an alcoholic. But what people do not know is that he is a disillusioned idealist. Since he has become aware of his inability to change the world, he has indeed been living in a state of deep nihilism and arrogant desperation. In class, he only goes through the motions and outside he drinks too much. But as far as sex is concerned, he is just a shadow of himself now: depression is not synonymous with Viagra! For all that, he can't help being attracted to one of his students, pretty and bright Jill Pollard. He enters into a relationship with her which remains platonic, even if Jill would not say no to more. The situation remains unchanged for a while until, one day, in a diner, Abe and Jill surprise a conversation that will change the course of their lives dramatically...
This film feels like something out of Woody Allen's moral dilemmas of the 80's held over. Though it fits with his more dramatic moral dilemmas. This one works as one of the more serious ones but with a gentle humorous tone throughout. Though it's not particularly inspired and feels a bit basic. The film is not exactly heavy handed as it could be and feels surprisingly lite instead.
At first the film send more like a midlife crisis film. For the main character and his actions are more done out of boredom, depression and frustration. Feeling sorry for himself. Joaquin Phoenix does ok. As this is one of the first times I have seen him play a more intellectual character and it's not the smoothest fit. Though in his more joyful scenes, seems to finally get more into the groove. Joaquin Phoenix gained 33 pounds for the role on his own, because he thought the character would look like that.
As the mystery come undone through it the film. It ends up feeling more like a Nancy Drew mystery. With Emma Stone as Nancy Drew snooping that feels like a slower more dramatic revision of the film SCOOP without the supernatural element. Maybe it's having seen so many different types and styles of Woody Allen that if not exceptional it feels as though we have been here before with him. So that he is inspired by his own old films. It's college bound American setting is the only thing that makes it feel different. Though we travel more through the intellectual wasp sect. So the film becomes more of a movie then any bearing of reality or relate ability.
The characters are not that interesting. Nor do you have any feelings for them. So that while it sets the characters up. It is also full.
Though the character becomes more spirited, so does the film and it actually moves through ok to kind of boring and worst of all basic. Like a milquetoast version of LAW AND ORDER from the criminals POV. So like LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. Might have been more interesting if the character didn't do it, but claimed to or someone else killed the judge before he got the chance and as the suspect had to figure out who did and is really the only witness against the actual murderer.
The only performances which make the film come alive is Emma Stone. Who is energetic as her character is naive, romantic and in over her head. She really breathes life into a role that could have become annoying easily. If only the script matched her performance. Also she breathes life into the movie and comes off better then the last Woody Allen film she was in MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT. Here her character gets her fantasy fulfilled and realizes the price she has to deal with for it as a coed who beleoves she is more grown and adult then she actually is.
Parker Posey as always knocks your socks off, her comedic character has a sense of tragedy. That seems to follow her like a shadow throughout the film. She brings a depth to her older disillusioned character. Stuck in a marriage she hates and Jesse her love affair for fun and excitement. Though she knows it is fleeting. She might not have a scene that really shows her off, but her performance throughout the film a kind of reality.
The films basis seems to be more about theory and philosophy. So just like his other films of this type morality plays a major theme.
Which as his last noted good film BLUE JASMINE played like an inspired and updated version of Blanche DuBois in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. This seems like a mini version of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Which is even hinted at in the film, but isn't as strong as, let's say films of the past such as MATCH POINT of it's inspiration CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. Woody Allen seems to keep coming to the same subjects and stories but different ways of looking at them. As he has made so many films over the years. He comes close to repeating himself. Though here the film might have a Tom Ripley inspiration too.
The film is partially a modern-day re-telling of Dostoevsky's famous 19th century novel 'Crime and Punishment', about a university student named Raskolnikov who, deeply troubled by the fact that he can't change the world like Napoleon Bonaparte, decides to murder a pawnbroker to prove that he is morally superior to other people. He justifies this murder by telling himself (and eventually others) that he did it to rid the world of a vile woman whose death would make the world a better place. This is strikingly similar to the plot of 'Irrational Man', where the protagonist Abe - a university teacher - murders a judge, justifying it by saying it was helping a woman in need, but really he did it to satisfy his own ideals. Both Abe and Raskolnikov take a dark satisfaction in partially revealing their role in the murder (Raskolnikov taunts a fellow university student about who committed the murder, and Abe has fun guessing how the killer did it at a dinner). In both stories, a young woman (Sonya in 'Crime and Punishment' and Jill in 'Irrational Man') urges the man to turn himself into the police when an innocent man is wrongly accused of the murder. Woody Allen's appreciation of the source material is evident in two scenes, the first being when Abe comments about how "Dostoevsky got it right" in relation to his ideas about human existence, and more directly when Jill finds a copy of 'Crime and Punishment' open on Abe's desk
While the Jazz tune that plays repetitiousness throughout as a theme. Only reminds you in the audience. Again if you are a fan you have seen this before. It also has a more physical action and attack then seen before. Cinematically the plot owes a debt to Hitchcock 's Strangers on a Train, with the idea to commit a crime by a disinterested party as a favor to another. A reference underlined by the fairground outing.
When it comes to Woody Allen films you also have to look at it in phases as yes once in awhile he corns out with memorable classics and early in his career he was on a role, but while revered now some of his 80's and early 90's films were also seen as filler and not as good or sharp as others. As when he is good he is really good, but when bad can either be horrible or dull. Though I believe he has more exceptional films rather then forgettable. As the volume grows each side does to but one seems to be getting stronger at least in numbers.