Irrational Man (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 94 minutes.
OK for children.
Abe (Joaquin Phoenix) is
an unhappy philosophy professor teaching a summer class as a visiting
professor at Braylin, a small what appears to be east coast liberal arts
college. Jill (Emma Stone) is one of his students, who becomes enamored
with him. They talk of philosophy and philosophers like Kierkegaard and
Nietzsche, and existentialism and Sartre, and then something happens
that suddenly turns their lives into a philosophical conundrum.
Allen says that he was deeply influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s films as a
child and, as a result read Kirkegaard and Nietzsche, philosophers who
had influenced Bergman. He says, “I don’t think that anything I’ve
written or dramatized has any originality philosophically. I’m simply a
product of the philosophers I’ve read. I think the most you could say is
that there are coherent philosophical themes that run through all or
most of my pictures over the years. But they are obsessions of mine that
center around issues many men have thought about. I’m interested in
depressing realities that haunt me. They’ve haunted artists and thinkers
far beyond me in every way, but I deal with them through my own point of
Like most of Woody’s
protagonists, Abe is a haunted, depressed man, searching for a happy
life, which seems to have eluded him, despite his success and fame. This
attracts young Jill and they become friends, a friendship which is
This is one of Allen’s more complex scripts. The pace is perfect, the
dialogue smart, the acting first rate with fine supporting performances
by Jamie Blackley as Jill’s boyfriend, Roy, and Parker Posey as an
unhappy faculty wife with the hots for Abe.
The music consists mostly of the Ramsay Lewis Trio that sets the tone
for the film, constantly reminding one that this is a light-hearted
comedic presentation, despite the dark undertones. The film was shot in
Newport, RI at picturesque Salve Regina College, and the locations were
in Newport, Providence, and surrounding areas.
Bergman to the contrary
notwithstanding, throughout this film I kept thinking what it would have
been like if Alfred Hitchcock had directed Woody’s script instead of
Woody, with a cast of, maybe, Grace Kelly or Joan Fontaine and Ray
Milland or Cary Grant instead of Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix.
Actually, I knew what it would have been like. It still would have been
9/10 but it wouldn’t have been a comedy. It would have been a tense
thriller on the order of Suspicion (1941) or Dial M for Murder