For a long time Woody Allen has been interested in the ideas of morality, justice and punishment. Going back at least as far as his masterpiece “Crimes and misdemeanors”, the writer/director has explored numerous times the idea that crimes are committed and, seemingly, there is no cosmic or divine judgement that falls on perpetrators. His most recent film on DVD, “Irrational man” is another (mostly) satisfying entrée in what we might call his “big question” series. Joaquin Phoenix is the driving force as Abe Lucas, a depressed and probably alcoholic professor who lands a teaching job at a small, New England college, a sort of world unto itself that appears wealthy and insulated and not used to outlandish characters. Emma Stone plays a student of his who also becomes deeply involved with him, finding, in her own rebellious way, a means to be her own person. As usual with Allen’s films—and this is where that “mostly” qualifier comes from—people in perfectly stable relationships always seem to be utterly blind to the danger inherent in spending large amounts of time with someone other than their significant other, as if they are immune from such dangers as adultery or at least unfaithfulness. And the danger in “Irrational man” is not simply in relationships, but extends to violence as well. Allen returns to his pet themes in more ways than one, and chance—simply being in the right place at the right time—is the axle on which the plot moves very swiftly and satisfyingly forward. For Abe finds a way out of his slump, a way to move beyond the seemingly stale and pointless discussions of philosophy that take up his time in the classroom. Of course I will not give away anything more than that, other than to say that this time, if I may dare a theological speculation, there seems to be a bit more light in the story than we’ve seen before. To fully understand that reference, you’ll have to watch the movie. Then get back with me and tell me what you think.
This movie is rated R for one brief scene and some strong language.
Posted by: David