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Terry's Take

Movie Review: IRRATIONAL MAN

Director Woody Allen will be 80 years old this year, but he’s as busy as ever.

He’s just directed his 45th movie, a comedy-drama called IRRATIONAL MAN, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone.

IRRATIONAL MAN is an entertaining and thought provoking film that explores a difficult moral question: How are we supposed to judge a criminal act that helps a deserving human being? Can committing an evil act ever be considered a good thing?
     
Joaquin Phoenix stars as an alcoholic philosophy professor at a New England college for the summer. His character is well known in the academic world as an activist and a womanizer. But as the movie begins, he’s too depressed to do more than get through his classes.
     
Voice of a male professor: I hear Abe Lucas is gonna be joining the faculty this summer.
Voice of a female professor: Really? That should put some Viagra into the philosophy department.

Joaquin Phoenix gives another fine performance here, this time as the depressed professor who is just going through the motions at his summer job. But he’s not so far gone that he doesn’t notice the beauty and the brains of Emma Stone as Jill, a student in one of his classes. He likes her first paper.

Abe: Your arguments were well reasoned and original.
Jill: And I blushing right now? That’s a really big compliment. Thank you. Um, I did actually find some parts of your book a little hard to follow, though. And I would love if you could explain some things to me.
Abe: Sure, but can we get out of here though before I die of suffocation?

And then there’s Parker Posey as Rita, a faculty member who has designs on Abe:

Rita: I hope you’re not going to send me back out into the rain without sleeping with me. 
Abe: I’m trying to write.
Rita: You’re blocked. I’m going to unblock you. Or are you becoming infatuated with that student you spend so much time with.
Abe: I haven’t been able to perform in nearly a year.

Abe (voice over): I can’t write. I can’t breathe.
Abe (to Jill): I couldn’t remember the reason for living and when I did it wasn’t convincing. 
Jill: You suffer from despair.
Abe: How comforting that would be.
Jill: Are you aware of what’s going on at this table? (They are sitting in a booth in a diner and she’s referring to a group of people behind her.)

I won’t tell you what is going on at that table, but I will say that it gives Abe the idea for a crime that would help a desperate woman sitting there.

Abe (voice over): It was at this moment that my life came together. 
      
Just the intention of doing something big rejuvenates Abe.

 Abe (voice over): The dizziness and anxiety had disappeared.  I was happy and enjoying the joy of living.

In fact, he’s now able to “perform” with Rita.

Rita: What happened to the philosophy professor? You were like a caveman.

Jill (voice over): His spirits seemed up. He seemed more focused and yet for some reason it bothered me. 
Abe: Is something wrong?
Jill (voice over): My thoughts were very mixed up, troubled. 

And with good reason.  After Abe commits his crime, Jill figures it out what it was.

To say any more would give too much away so let me just add that If you don’t like Woody’s films, then you won’t like IRRATIONAL MAN.

But if you do admire his work, chances are you’ll enjoy it.  
      
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.       thunter@hawaiinewsnow.com

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