Irrational Man Screen 18 articles

Irrational Man

2015

Irrational Man Poster
  • [Parker Posey is] such a great fit for an Allen comedy that it's kind of a letdown that this material is semi-serious. High wince factor or not, "Irrational Man" is never less than watchable. The bit involving a heavily notated copy of "Crime and Punishment" is either Allen's lamest dramatic device or his best joke in years.

  • The film turns into something like a so-so episode of Columbo, where we’re in on the hows and whys, and merely wait for the who to drop in someone else’s head. Stone’s Jill is more Nancy Drew than Peter Falk, though, and those cogs turn awfully slowly – Allen hasn’t written a part that lets her snappy intelligence come to the fore, only her easy charm and sudden, flaring bursts of outrage.

  • Allen’s new feature is no Blue Jasmine, though it’s a considerable improvement on the fossilized Magic in the Moonlight (14). But again, Irrational Man feels disconcertingly impersonal—all the more so as it overtly carries certain traditional marks of his patented brand, being a light-highbrow comedy of manners, peppered with bookish in-jokes.

  • I’ve lost interest in reading the artist’s life into his work, and I’ve gotten used to (and am occasionally taken by) the Woody malaise. He’s his own man: Greatness eludes him, though rarely in the profound ways I get from e.g. F.F. Coppola. Preferred the Darius Khondji cinematography in Magic in the Moonlight; he works best in period. The same Ramsey Lewis Trio needle drop (which begins with the end of a round of applause) is reused throughout, so many scenes clap for themselves.

  • “The same old” is Allen’s default mode, and here it trucks along to a modest insight and an arbitrary twist-of-fate ending. But at least there are a few bumps along the way—courtesy of Phoenix and a sly Chekhov’s-gun tease—and, as always, some pretty lighting by the great Darius Khondji.

  • A soulful presence, Mr. Phoenix excels at playing characters who often struggle to express themselves one tormented or comically inarticulate word at a time. Here, though consistently watchable, he often seems ready to flee the scene, perhaps because his character is so uneasy or because Mr. Allen hasn’t given Mr. Phoenix enough material to turn Abe into a thinker who can persuasively cite Heidegger.

  • The biggest problem is the script. "Irrational Man" has been directed by Allen with characteristic grace and economy (he's been a better director than writer for about twenty years), and it has been acted with what could be described as heroic resourcefulness... But every good effort by cast and crew is undone by Allen's disorganized, boringly declamatory screenplay, which often sounds like a bad impersonation of Allen's dialogue by somebody who has listened to his films with a superficial ear.

  • Nothing about this movie is practically or intellectually plausible. Lena Dunham’s most recent season of Girls gets more comedy from liberal arts life than does Allen’s last handful of trips to college. So does Noah Baumbach’s upcoming farce Mistress America.

  • Irrational Man is so fundamentally uninspired that a viewer almost immediately begins looking for subtext... [It's] a rather rote assemblage of late Allen tropes, particularly the bourgeois murder plot and the moral inconstancy of women, particularly those younger ladies who are inexplicably drawn to older, wiser men. In other words, Woody is orchestrating his dirty-old-intellectual fantasies while nominally absolving his lead character with a modicum of self-indictment.

  • In some respects, you can clearly see a master at work – the crafty sensibility of a writer-director who gave us gems such as Annie Hall and Manhattan. And when you are about to convince yourself that maybe, just maybe, this might be Allen’s return to form, he surreptitiously blindsides you with the sort of lethargy in execution that has characterised much of his recent work (case in point: the absolute horror that was Magic in the Moonlight).

  • Sight & Sound: Adam Nayman
    September 07, 2015 | October 2015 Issue (pp. 66-67)

    The desultory intellectualism of the references, combined with an almost total lack of credible dramatic motivation or interpersonal interactions, marks Irrational Man as a failure – albeit one with its share of qualified successes. Phoenix's slouched, shoe-gazing comportment is as much a piece of rigorous physical acting as his more stylised turns for Paul Thomas Anderson...

  • [Its] ideas sometimes sit a tad uneasily on the surface of “Irrational Man,” which, in its more bluntly scripted moments, has its characters spout aphorisms that sound more like undergraduate thesis topics than natural dialogue — an ideological tennis game to complement “Match Point’s” actual one. But Allen’s visual direction and editing rhythms are particularly sharp and precise this time around, as is his work with the actors.

  • The philosophical regurgitation and banal moral-play observations we’d expect from Allen are all here, but the variable is Phoenix, who makes no effort to fit the model for the director’s surrogate leading man. He’s clearly having fun here, at first indulging in Abe’s intoxicated aloofness, then turning on a dime as a gleeful prospective murderer... It’s one of the more physical leading turns in [Allen's] films, and Phoenix’s naturally awkward deliveries and off kilter presence elevate it.

  • Irrational Man's screenplay is dotted with questions of death and morality, but these shout-outs are pretty isolated—as are the belly laughs and one-liners, including a bit of bar-setting in the opening minutes that's vintage Allen, with Abe telling his students that "much of philosophy _is_ verbal masturbation." The question of how seriously the film takes its own existential conundrum goes rivetingly unresolved until its penultimate scene.

  • Because it’s set in academia, Irrational Man is one of those slightly exasperating Allen pictures in which the dialogue amounts to endless variations on “I’m well aware of what Kierkegaard said.” Once the plot finally kicks in, however (following about 45 minutes of laborious setup), the film is a lot of fun, as Abe struggles to conceal evidence of his crime while simultaneously feeling suddenly invincible.

  • [Irrational Man feels] like Chabrol. It's a breezy, superficial film about murder and philosophical angst... Little in the story comes off as a surprise, since the characters talk about nearly everything they do before actually doing it. And yet that feels appropriate enough, as Irrational Man is all about the seductive power of ideas, namely the idea of pulling off a "perfect" crime.

  • Allen’s sketch of the campus owes nothing to observations of real students or teachers; the setting and the setup are living abstractions that the trio of lead actors invest with their own vital whimsy. But, when the Dostoyevskian drama kicks in, Allen’s venomous speculations take over, and bring to the fore a tangle of ghostly conundrums and ferocious ironies, as if the director, nearing eighty, already had one foot in the next world and were looking back at this one with derision and rue.

  • [Allen's] latest, Irrational Man, is, whether one accepts or rejects its brutal fatalism, a totalizing aesthetic experience that provides evidence that this seventy-nine-year-old is a craftsman we should still be paying attention to.

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