Woody Allen gets dark and ugly again with Irrational Man—something that seems to suit him better than his comedy efforts these days.
Yes, Blue Jasmine was a comedy, but it was quite nasty. It was also Allen’s best film in years, and perhaps touched off a bit of a creative renaissance for the stupid jerkface. (I still think what he did to Mia Farrow’s family was despicable, and I’m not backing down on that one.)
In Irrational Man, Joaquin Phoenix is a genuine creepfest as Abe, a philosophy professor who strikes up a friendship with Jill (Emma Stone), one of his students. Abe is in a rut; he’s drinking a lot, blathering morose philosophies, and even playing Russian roulette at a college party. He’s desperately in need of a pick-me-up.
Well, Abe finds that pick-me-up—and it certainly is not a standard one. I won’t give it away, but it’s pretty brutal, and it touches off numerous moral dilemmas.
While this isn’t one of Allen’s more ingenious or original efforts, it is a good film that pulls great performances out of Phoenix and Stone. Phoenix has quietly been turning in one great performance after another, and this is no exception. He makes Abe a multilayered, tragic and enthralling character. Stone is his match as a young woman interested in her professor—an interest that could lead to very bad things.
The film has a jaunty soundtrack that goes nicely with the nasty undertakings.
Allen makes good movies when he gets sinister—and this shows him at his most sinister.
Special Features: There’s nothing much in the way of features: All you get is a couple of red-carpet interviews and a photo gallery.