As I navigate a year of 366 movies, I am trying to go to as many uncharted areas as I can. I like to think of myself as a film buff, but I realize more and more how many gaps I have. One of those is that I have never seen a Woody Allen movie. I’ve heard a lot about his films, but I have failed to see any of them. While at the Red Box this evening with my wife she saw Emma Stone on the cover of Irrational Man, which has a 6.7 out of 10 stars on IMDB and only 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, when I pointed out the man was Joaquin Phoenix she was in, thus my first Woody Allen film founds its way into my PS3.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe, a philosophy professor who is struggling to find anything good in life, who meets Jill (Emma Stone), a student in his class, and she immediately takes a liking to her professor. Rita, played by Parker Posey, is a colleague who is desperately trying to start an affair with Abe forms the second point of the love triangle. Abe is initially not interested in romance with either Jill or Rita as his lack of interest in life makes everything, including love, bleak and pointless. His decision to take action to help a complete stranger in a very irrational way fills him with a passion he’d been looking for and his life appears to change for the better.
While I’ve never seen a Woody Allen, I’m familiar with his older man-younger women cliché. I found the twist in the plot of this film to be very intriguing, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it. The choice to have both Jill and Abe narrate different moments of the film was interesting as it makes it hard to tell whose story we are truly watching. I really enjoyed Abe as a character as I think myself the philosopher and he had some very memorable quotes. “Much of philosophy is verbal masturbation,” and “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” were two of my favorite lines that are very early in the introduction of his character. The cynicism the character oozes is great and Joaquin delivers another excellent performance.
There is a scene early on where a group of college kids are explaining Russian Roulette while holding a revolver, but they are speaking hypothetically. Without hesitation, Abe grabs the gun, spins the revolver, puts it to his head, and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens and the kids freak out that their teacher just did that. Abe states let’s try 50/50 odds and repeats the first steps but pulls the trigger three times before Jill gets to him and pulls the gun away. This sets up how disinterested the character is and how much he
has nothing to lose. Jill sets out to try and prove him wrong, but he initially refuses her advances.
While it seems this is not one of the beloved Woody Allen films, I really enjoyed its overall premise. The philosophical take on the meaning of life, the duality of the decision that makes Abe want to live again, and the writing of the film are all very enjoyable. I will definitely be seeking out the other films that I’ve heard so much positive feedback about. I give Irrational Man 7 out of 10 existential crises.