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Woody Allen Paints a Portrait of an Irrational Man

Updated on October 15, 2019
Robert J Sodaro profile image

Robert J. Sodaro is an American-born writer, editor, and digital graphic artist who loves writing about comics, movies, and literature.

Irrational Man Poster

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix appear in Woody Allan's Irrational Man
Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix appear in Woody Allan's Irrational Man | Source

Irrational Man Review

Irrational Man: “PG” (1 Hour 37 Minutes)

Starring: Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix, Jamie Blackley, Parker Posey, Betsy Aidem

Directed by: Woody Allen


Woody Allen, the Auteur

There was a time when Woody Allen made funny silly films. Sadly, while those days of funny, silly films are long gone, Allen still makes films, albeit of a more profound nature (to be sure, all of Allen’s films were liberally seasoned with deep philosophical thoughts, and weighty, reflective insights. His new film is no different. This time out, Allan has set his sights on a burned-out, but (one-time) brilliant professor named Abe Lucas (Phoenix) who believes in taking lessons from life rather than textbooks, and then using such lessons to pass knowledge on to his students. Abe takes a job at a small New England college located in Rhode Island. To everyone there, both teacher and student alike he is a creature of mystery and intrigue.


"Allen still makes films, albeit of a more profound nature"

The Plot

Abe, against his own better judgement, and much to his own dismay, becomes involved with not only Rita (Posey), a teacher but a precocious student named Jill (Stone) as well. However it is his relationship with Jill that forces him to take an unexpected, yet dramatic, yet existential turn to his life that ultimately brings around making him see the world through a much rosier and more positive perspective. However it is actually his relationship with Jill that not only invigorates him, but winds up being his undoing as well, for it is while he is dinning out with Jill that they both overhear a divorced woman in a nearby booth going on about how the judge that is hearing her divorce case has made all sorts of rulings against her, making her life even more miserable.

Emma Stone & Joaquin Phoenix

Emma Stone & Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man
Emma Stone & Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man | Source

The Story

After much deliberation Abe decides to kill the judge in order to help the woman out. This sets off an extended ethical and philosophical debate between Abe, himself, Jill, Rita, and other cast members about the moral implications of taking a single life to benefit the greater good. Hence, for the majority of the film we are subject to typical Allen musings on the nature of man, the soul, immortality, and the like. Did we say that Allen doesn’t make fun films anymore? Well that’s not entirely true, this film — while not as goofy silly as Bananas, Sleeper, or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, there still as a fair amount of pure entertainment to be found in the 97 minute runtime of this film, especially to those of us who have enjoyed Allen’s films throughout the years.

The Resolution

Abe, Jill and the others go through all the stages of attempting to justifying the actions of the killer as they go through the motions of trying to not only puzzle out who the judge’s killer was but determine the high and low roads about the relative value of killing a nasty, soulless SOB, and is the world a better place for it. It really is fun to watch Abe and the others jump through all sorts of theoretical hoops while working their way through this Gordian Knot of a mystery in order to determine the relative value of the doing the deed itself. Unfortunately, the ending is somewhat unsatisfying, but at least the road to get there is a rather fun romp.

A (brief) discussion of Allen's films

As stated at the onset of this review, Allen’s films — even the silliest of them — all had deeper, philosophical levels, especially films like Love and Death, Stardust Memories, and Interiors all of which had a strong Bergmanesque quality to them. Then of course there were the romantic comedies that include Annie Hall (our own personal favorite), Manhattan, and Hannah and Her Sisters. While most of his earlier films took place in or around New York, in the past decade Allen has strayed far afield from his beloved Manhattan including with tis outing, which takes place in a small college town in New England. Although Allen’s film and style have evolved over the years, he is still regarded as one of the best filmmakers of the current era, and it is considered a feather in the cap of an actor to have been invited to participate in an Allen film (Stone has been in two — this one and Magic in the Moonlight, and (perhaps oddly enough) Sylvester Stallone even appeared ion one (Bananas).

Rate this film

1 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Irrational Man

© 2015 Robert J Sodaro


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