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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: Irrational Man

Posted By on Sat, Aug 8, 2015 at 10:20 PM

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man
  • Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man

Recent Woody Allen films like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris represent a late-career renaissance for the now 79-year-old writer-director, a phenomenon that has occurred just as questions surrounding Allen’s personal life have limited interest in his work. Thanks to strong performances, the bleak yet engrossing Irrational Man holds its own among the director’s recent successes, even as an over-reliance on character narration signals serious shortcomings in Allen’s screenplay.

The story involves the arrival of a charismatic and controversial “bad boy” philosophy professor (does such a thing exist?) named Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) at a small liberal arts college. Lucas quickly earns the affections of both his star student (Emma Stone) and an unhappily married fellow professor (Parker Posey), but his abstractions on the meaning of life have only left him disillusioned and depressed — until he comes up with a plan of action. Phoenix makes a wonderfully atypical Allen anti-hero, but the star here is the director himself as he stakes out fresh territory in his epic 50-year struggle with life’s Big Questions. Does Irrational Man bear any resemblance to real life as we know it? Of course not, but neither do Annie Hall or Manhattan, two Allen masterworks without which we’d have to rewrite the history of 20th-century film.

Irrational Man is currently screening at the Canal Place, Elmwood Palace and West Bank Palace theaters.

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