Directed by Woody Allen
On a small town college campus, a philosophy professor in existential crisis gives his life new purpose when he enters into a relationship with his student.
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★★★★ review by Travis Lytle on Letterboxd
A wry and dry comedy whose characters create a subtle and smart experience, Woody Allen's "Irrational Man" finds the director treading familiar but darkly fun territory. Revolving around a philosophy professor looking to enrich his life through experience, the film tackles existence, academia, and romance with the director's typical but electrically clever sense of mirth.
Focusing on college professor looking to inject his life with energizing experience, "Irrational Man" finds the academic bedding the wives of coworkers, romancing a coed, and hatching a plan that would shake his life to its core. Said plan send the professor and his acquaintances scurrying down a particular dark but, for him, refreshing path.
The success of "Irrational Man" is driven by its dialogue and the actors delivering it. Allen offers a production that is full of jazz, texture and warm bieges, but his players and their verbal interactions make the entire affair glow. Whether it is the nearly unbearable charm of Emma Stone's college student or the abject intellectual buffoonery of Joaquin Phoenix's professor, Allen builds thoroughly engaging characters who compel with amusing and pointed verbal sparring.
Its energy may be restrained, but "Irrational Man" offers a great deal of semi-twisted fun. Delightfully acted and deliciously spoken, the film is an under-the-radar charmer whose dark wrinkles make it a cleverly engaging success.
★★★★ review by sprizzle on Letterboxd
Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix are my two movie crushes of the moment. Apparently, they're Woody Allen's current favorites as well. I could watch these two watch paint dry. So it's a bit unfair to put them both in a movie with such excellent writing. Joaquin and Emma (And Parker Posey) bring so much to the table. I couldn't care less if I've seen this same thing from Allen in the past, it feels just as important as his other recent successes.
Existentialism seems to be weighing heavily on the sheepish writer/director these days. This is just about as philosophy heavy as it comes, just a step or so shy of something like Waking Life. Joaquin's role as burnout philosophy professor lends itself to plenty of deep conversations about historical and modern reason. Of course it's all tied up in a messy and sure to end in flames relationship. It takes nearly the whole first half of the film to flesh out the characters and realize their motivations before our protagonist finds something to reinvigorate his life. A single act that will set him up for the rest of the film as a polarizing figure. It boils down his philosophical ideas to black and white.
Irrational Man is beautifully simple. It may not answer any big questions but it does have something to say.
★★★½ review by Raul Marques on Letterboxd
A much lighter and less-inspired Match Point. During the first part, it's a cheerful walk in the park filled with some of Allen's classic excessively cynical and philosophical despise for philosophy dialog. Unfortunately, as plot evolves and the picture gets more serious, there's a notably decrease of interest. There's simply not enough meat in the script in order to the mystery work. On the other hand, the tremendously charismatic actors deliver highly enjoyable performances, despite suffering from severely under-developed parts.
★★★½ review by Blain LaMotta on Letterboxd
It gave me a minor Woody.
★★★★ review by Simon Ramshaw on Letterboxd
"So much of philosophy is just verbal masturbation."
Although some of Irrational Man's dialogue clunks harder and more noisily than Iron Man himself, Woody Allen's latest is a delightfully acidic cocktail of well-worn cliches reassigned to the nearly-octogenarian's own take on the 'murder-mystery' genre. From minute one, we know that burnt-out philosophy professor Abe Lucas is going to knock somebody off, but the main question is who. Halfway through, this is answered, and the film spins into a game of cat and mouse, where the cat and the mouse don't know if their enemy actually exists.
A fascinating way to pace a thriller, Allen might not be uncovering the idea of murder with as much precision or pertinence as he did in Crimes and Misdemeanours, but there's a lot to like as Joaquin Phoenix (excellent, as always) tenderly treads around his guilt as the walls close in. Although the progression from A to B can feel artificial, Allen's way of navigating the tale is never anything less than very funny, with a magnetic ensemble being immensely reliable when his dialogue isn't.
Oddly essay-like in tone, Irrational Man is an indulgent curio from an auteur with a recently-minor output, but if this isn't a calling card for bigger and more interesting things, then I don't know what is.
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