Now Playing Review

Woody fully exposed in Irrational Man

lars logoYEP – “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” Joaquin Phoenix shares with his eager class room of college co-eds in Woody Allen’s latest guilt-plagued couch trip,  Irrational Man.

Allen, who will be 80 in December, has finally ditched any desire to bury his autobiographical neurosis inside the subtext of his rapid fire banter. In this film he lays it all out there. Woody’s demons are such that he is now willing to admit that he can only find purpose in his life by destroying others.

Figuratively speaking…of course.

“I set out to be a world changer,” gloomy Professor Abe (Phoenix) says to his smitten, wide-eyed student (Emma Stone). “And ended up a liberal intellectual who can’t get an erection.”

Irrational manIronic dilemma posed by a filmmaker named Woody.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Then, the light bulb goes off that he could murder a mean-spirited local judge and probably get away with it. This eureka moment gives new pep to his step, pulls him out of the doldrums, solves his bedroom problems, and “gives him a reason to live.”

I see ya, Woody!

Irrational Man is definitely not one of Allen’s better films. Not by a long shot. The plot contrivances reveal an overall lack of conviction in the premise of the story. Or should I say “fantasy?”

It is, however, one of his most honest films. The contempt and disdain he shows for the “intellectual” Ivy League campus crowd is obvious. The very crowd Allen’s films have been a cocktail party hit with. The very crowd that flocks to the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan most Monday nights in hopes of hearing Woody wail on his clarinet.

The very crowd that could fit in a phone booth.

The very crowd, apparently, Woody would like to inflict bodily harm to.

Oh, that’s right, it’s just a movie.

Phoenix is pretty effective as the self-indulgent, gloomy Professor Abe. Emma Stone gives her usual earnest effort at being engaging…and alluring (not sure the latter ever works for me, sorry). Indie film cult icon Parker Posey was actually the most pleasant surprise in the picture as a fellow professor. Very interesting to see how she has matured, still an unpredictable screen presence. If nothing else, this film made me want to go back and revisit Posey’s bizarre 1997 film, The House of Yes.

By the look of the meager headcount at the theatre I sat in, you don’t need me to tell you to hold off on this film until it goes to Blu-ray.

I probably should have.

Something about Woody Allen’s prolific desire to bare his soul on screen keeps me coming back.

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