Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Irrational Man

Irrational Man
Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone

Rated: R for some language and sexual content.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: July 17, 2015 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

Woody Allen's 46th feature film is a droll, yet uneven potboiler set on a campus (filmed in Newport, RI), having been influenced by Patricia Highsmith and Dostoyevsky.

But, Irrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix (as Allen's latest surrogate in clueless intellectual form) and Emma Stone (Aloha, Birdman) hardly comes close in profundity to his Match Point and Crimes & Misdemeanors. Even the well-constructed and better acted Blue Jasmine which had an intimate current resonance to it while the romantic ode Midnight In Paris also located noted past figures.

Phoenix's Abe Lucas is a philosophy professor into "verbal masturbation" who has that kind of virile reckless appeal, especially to nutty science lecturer Rita (it's good to see Parker Posey again after chewing the scenery often in Superman Returns). Bright student and talented pianist Jill (Stone, Allen's latest muse after somewhat enchanting in "Magic In The Moonlight" opposite Colin Firth) also begins more than a flirtation with Abe.

The soft lensing and music in the production suggests Allen's input for sure though the latter might have some thinking of Schroeder from "Peanuts" at times.

The arguably unfulfilled narrative is compelled by a small-town corrupt judge (Tom Kemp) presiding over a custody case that would devastate a mother overheard by Abe and a smitten Jill. Helping this woman in a precarious situation to make this judge unable to rightfully do his work has Abe quoting Jean-Paul Satyr to be more emotionally enriching beyond academia in a dramatic, more experiential way.

Stone is a better actor than this and even the lovely charlatan in "Moonlight" and may have some oddly interesting scenes opposite Phoenix (better in Paul Thomas Anderson's hazy tale of an addled sleuth Inherent Vice). In its own daffy charisma and jocularity Irrational Man will still connect to even less than discerning Allen aficionados though an overriding dispiritedness puts a damper on the intended atmosphere and references.

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