Irrational Man

Year: 2015
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone
Written by Rhys Wortham

Love stories often involve fluffy stuff and some kind of “they were meant to be” theme, which means the industry usually churns out cliché-ridden projects like ‘The Notebook’. Some stray from the usual theme and fall into obscurity like ‘I Love You, New York’ or ‘Ghost Town’. Both are off-beat love stories and have their own merits, and to me, they keep the genre alive, while some Tom Hanks movie pulls in the crowds. So, where does Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’ figure in to the love story equation? Simple: somewhere between the local gossip column in a magazine and a request to submit someone to a psych ward.

The story focuses on a man named Abe (Joaquin Phoenix), who is incredibly reckless, yet somehow lands himself a teaching job at a university. This leaves him open to taking advantage of lonely married women, and young, attractive co-eds. Now, unlike ‘Animal House’, this doesn’t turn out to be funny, and unlike ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, it doesn’t involve a lot of reckless behavior that turns out positive in the end. Instead, Abe makes a series of very bad decisions that go nowhere and he isn’t punished for them; some involving married and/or taken women. Meanwhile, everyone seems to be talking about fantastic things Abe has done, which would have made the film much more interesting if we actually saw them. Since no flashbacks occur, it leaves the question open as to whether Abe’s deeds were as pure as people say they were, or whether it’s all just a bunch of lies.

Eventually Abe overhears a woman in a cafe who is really in distress over some judge not siding with her on a divorce hearing. So, Abe gets some kind of hair-brained scheme to kill the bugger. He does, and then people slowly put the pieces together as a “joke.” I guess this is where the comedy aspect is supposed to come in. I don’t know, because I didn’t laugh at any point in the entire film. The movie, as far as I could tell, basically just slowly talks us through the merits, and pitfalls, of committing murder.

It’s a very one-sided argument, since it’s obvious Abe is impulsive, and didn’t get all the facts before committing murder. Also, being a loud asshole about the “possibilities” of killing someone one day after a major news station covered the judge’s murder is total red flag territory. This would have given him away to anyone with half a brain, unlike the characters in the movie who don’t seem to have one between them. After this, the movie, to me, falls flat and I could easily predict where it would end up.

For me, this film is really forgettable, for lots of reasons. Abe is hopelessly unrealistic and quite frankly, just odd at times. The way people describe him makes him sound like he’s the next Dalhi Lama, but in the film he’s more like a grumpy, drunk Moe Szyslack from ‘The Simpsons’, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Jill, played by Emma Stone, is too young and stupid to realise that she actually has no concept of love or loyalty. The rest of the characters we meet are pretty much nondescript or excessively bland. The story is slim, and just drones on and on about things that would have been more interesting to see than to be talked about. Some people might like this odd exploration into the questions surrounding murder, and how people can love a murderer. However, the whole discussion, which could have been interesting, just feels rushed. I won’t be watching this film again, and with good reason.

Rhys’ rating: 3.0 out of 10

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