A light, disposable Woody Allen film is what should be expected at this point. About once a decade, the almost 80-year-old filmmaker delivers a gem like Midnight in Paris, Match Point, etc., but most of his recent releases resemble the throwaway Scoop, which you probably do not remember. Emma Stone’s precocious co-ed in Irrational Man could be substituted for Scarlett Johansson’s journalism student in Scoop, and no one would be the wiser. Irrational Man circles the relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s philosophy professor, Abe Lucas, and his student/confidante, Jill, played by Stone. “Will they or won’t they” becomes secondary after the lifeless Lucas commits an act à la Crime and Punishment that reinvigorates him.
Stone works as both Allen’s current muse and one of his protagonists better than Johansson did. Stone has a down-to-earth beauty, and her mile-a-minute loquaciousness makes some of Allen’s clunkier recent dialogue sound near natural. Joaquin Phoenix fails to separate himself from the parade of proxies currently being employed by Allen (Owen Wilson, Larry David, Will Ferrell, Jason Biggs and more). Talky, but not insightful, with an overestimated jauntiness (the soundtrack betrays the film), Irrational Man offers little visual excitement. Only a distorted mirror kiss on a trip to the carnival funhouse remains memorable. Stone and Posey deliver some well-honed performances, but again, few others stand out.
Irrational Man may soon be forgotten, but never forget that this film is much more entertaining than You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
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