Woody Allen has accomplished the irrational. No matter the protagonist, either male or female, it is Allen’s persona that is splayed upon the screen. In this, his most recent “autobiographical” scenario, he cloaks himself in the guise of Joaquin Phoenix, playing a neurotic, psychotic philosophy teacher. Allen’s frustrations spiral into the macabre. All the awards, female conquests, even marrying his daughter, he still lusts for the “thrill” of the “kill” (possibly the only thing he hasn’t attempted, but flirts with). His untamed fantasies have careened into the nadir of neuroses; “Abe Lucas” (Phoenix) finds a resurgence in living when he plots to kill an erroneous judge.
Emma Stone salvages the film from total tedium by depicting bright, infatuated student “Jill”, and her youthful devotion to a magnetic teacher. Although Abe’s lectures on existentialism carry little pungency or electricity: Heidegger, Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche lose their innovative role as formidable “existentialists” but add fuel to Abe’s delusionary quest to purge the world of those he feels not worthy.
Parker Posey, “Rita”, unhappily married and bored, hones in on Abe, as a means of escape, incapable of manufacturing an exit without the assistance of a male catalyst. Many of Allen’s strongest women exhibit this jejune trait.
“Irrational Man” is stultifying, passionless. Immanuel Kant believed that “enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage.” Woody Allen should have reached that stage eons ago, and freed viewers from his exorbitant, excessive, therapeutic, filmic rants.
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