By Helen Lalonde (Michigan)
Irrational Man blends all the complexities that is Woody Allen’s signature. Full of philosophical, moral and existential questions. He takes the best of all worlds and puts them together. Sharp with many humorous moments in the dialogue, while still keeping a sense of serious suspense throughout the story.
Abe, a philosophy professor, with a scandalous reputation and a despairing outlook on life has come to teach at a new college. There are many rumors about this professor, and both a female teacher and student become enamored with his lore. Jill, the student, is full of life, gorgeous and smart. She seems to have it all made, perfect home, school life, boyfriend, but may be a little bored with the consistency of it all. Rita is a teacher at the college. She is a pot smoking, free spirit, living in a bad marriage that badly wants out. Both seem to be waiting for someone like Abe to make life more interesting. Even if he has a destructive nature. Many women seem to fall into the trap of wanting to help the lost and misunderstood man.
Moments of hilarity and interesting conversations start us on a journey getting to know these characters. As the film goes on, something happens that changes everything. Abe’s once meaningless existence becomes meaningful, and in this instance he is able to experience life in all its richness for the first time. We follow Abe and Jill’s take on the situation that follows, completely wrapped up in what we would do in their shoes.
Abe makes a choice, weighing out the pros and cons, and we are forced to weigh them as well. We have to decide, while watching, if we agree with his thinking or not. We also easily put ourselves in Jill’s position, who seems to have a less delusional sense of reality. There is a tension in the air as we watch something start out innocent, go into a gray moral area.
A dark comedy, and a deeply revealing film about human nature reacting to choices and influences. A story about growth through the ability to change your perspective. A chance to question what really makes one’s existence meaningful and interesting. At the end, it’s all about learning through experiencing.
A brilliant film, and one of my new favorites of this year. Woody Allen not only knows how to write, but how to direct amazing talent to voice it.
Emma Stone is perfect in this role, I can’t imagine anyone else playing it. She is so clever and charming that there isn’t a person alive that would say no to her. Joaquin Phoenix is perfectly cast as a drunken ex-activist that has lost sight of why he studied the big questions and tried to teach them in the first place. He is a comedian as well as a dramatic actor, playing with certain scenes in a very clever way.
I hope to see some of these performances at the Oscars next year. I must say it is always good to see Parker Posey in the cast because we can count on her to be funny and real. A wonderful cast, writer and director. I can’t help but give this film an A.