I always find something to like in every Woody Allen film, and in Irrational Man, I found many. The now 80-year-old(!) director’s 52nd film features Joaquin Phoenix as Abe Lucas, a rather louche professor of philosophy newly arrived at Braylin, in Rhode Island, probably a stand-in for Brown. Abe’s star quality masks a man who has given up on life, resorting to drink and an indifferent attitude toward teaching, and life in general. He carries on an off-handed, unfulfilling affair with fellow prof Parker Posey (who has always seemed made for Woody Allen films), and begins a fateful friendship with a student, Jill, played by Woody regular Emma Stone.
Jill has a very “basic” (to use the young folks’ lingo) boyfriend, and thus is starstruck by Abe. She is determined to be friends with him, and openly desires something more, which he properly resists, until… And here is where, I think, Woody’s films have always been heading. That is, to the lands of Russia and Hitchcock, not Sweden after all.
Abe and Jill are eating at a diner, when they overhear a wrenching conversation at the next table. This leads Abe to ponder the Dostoyevskian/Raskolnikovian existential solution to a problem that is not even his, but that proves to be, ipso facto, his deliverance. Where the awesome Alfred comes in to play is in the supporting characters’ ruminations on, and suspicions of, Abe. In Shadow of a Doubt, Hume Cronyn and Henry Travers maintained a regular club in which they discussed murderers and their motivations, all the while a killer in their own midst. And the endings of Irrational Man and Shadow of a Doubt, well, see for yourself. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 1/12/16