Loveless marriages, lost souls, impressionable minds and young love are all intertwined with some impeccable dialogue and outstanding performances. That’s just some of what you will experience with Director Woody Allan’s latest, Irrational Man.
The beauty of Allan’s ability to tie these aforementioned themes together is through the absolute mastery of conversation and language. And this film doesn’t shy from that.
Meet Professor Abe Lucas, Jaoquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Her). Lucas is a philosopher who is suffering an existential crisis and takes up a teaching job in a small town in America. Here he struggles to write and keep his thoughts together. Maybe the alcohol addiction did not help.
Things change when one of his students Jill Pollard, Emma Stone (The Help, Easy A), takes a keen interest in Professor Lucas. As the two spend more and more time together they find themselves sitting in a restaurant listening to a conversation at a near table about a corrupt Judge, who happens to dies not long after.
We meet only a handful of key characters in this film aside from Phoenix and Stone. But these characters are so complex and well thought out. From the drunken housewife science teacher, Rita Richards, who craves adventure but is rather stuck in a loveless marriage.
Richards has this overflowing bottle of emotion she is so desperately trying to keep locked up by drinking alcohol and dreaming of other men. While she is confidently asking for an affair, her body seems to say another.
Jaoquin Phoenix’s performance is outstanding. He starts with this empty, blind man full of emotions he doesn’t know how to handle. Then he grows into this almost giddy schoolgirl who transforms every scene to this engaging story of life and everything about it.
Phoenix has a unique ability to be able to show his emotions not only through his body but also by these subtle gestures and expressions. So much so you become part of the scene.
Stone has just as much presence. When she walks into a scene she demands your attention. She moves around the scene so effortlessly enlisting every emotion possible in the matter or seconds. You’re so engaged by her performance you wait for the next scene with her.
It would do no justice to the film to even try to explain, describe or even outline how well written this film is. The dialogue is complex and well thought out. The detail and subject matter is something that only few can master. However none of that would be of any use if the delivery by the actors weren’t spot on.
Woody Allen has used his unique skill to write and direct what is a highly complex film into a fantastic story driven by enticing conversation and delicate performances.
But it must be said, this is a Woody Allen film. This isn’t a movie you just decide to watch at the last minute. You need to be prepared to follow the dialogue. Understand the humour and most of all appreciate every little small thing that brings his scenes to life. Because if you don’t it’s too hard to understand.
Review by Jay Cook