Review: Irrational Man

Woody Allen latest film, Irrational Man, explores the dark side of twisted comedy with an all star cast.

Woody Allen turns 80 in December and is apparently asking himself seriously existential questions – although, to be fair, the anhedonic Allen has been asking himself seriously existential questions his whole life. While his latest offering isn’t a whimsical comedy like last year’s Magic in the Moonlight, it isn’t a strict drama either (like his Interiors or Another Woman), and instead lies in some curious middle ground where characters have 1970s-flavoured crises and intellectualise about Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky. A famed but jaded philosophy professor named Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix, who put on weight for his first film with Allen) comes to teach at a fictional college named Braylin and befriends a bunch of tired academics, or so two conflicting voiceovers inform us. The wife of one of them, the boozy Rita (Parker Posey), is keen to have an affair, but Abe’s too spiritually constipated for that, and instead finds himself in an inappropriate friendship with a student, the bright and questioning Jill (Emma Stone in her second consecutive movie for Allen, and evidently his new muse). Although Jill has a nice boyfriend (Jamie Blackley), she’s nevertheless swept up by the sullen Abe, and the two of them eventually and half-jokingly hit upon a plan to commit an ‘existentialist act’, and one that perhaps harks back to Woody’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Yet this isn’t funny like half of Crimes – but is it meant it be? It’s hard to tell, as Stone’s perky performance seems intended for a wry comedy, while Phoenix does his familiar ‘method’ routine rather irksomely. In the end, perhaps all that is crystal clear is this: philosophy is a health hazard

Irrational Man commences at cinemas on Thursday, August 20

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