Irrational Man

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
Irrational Man

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Joaquin Phoenix is a shambling philosophy professor in Woody Allen's uneven drama

Another year, another Woody Allen film. But not since 2007’s ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ has Allen played it almost entirely straight with a tragic male character at the heart of his drama. ‘Irrational Man’ harks further back to the likes of ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ and gives us Abe (Joaquin Phoenix), a philosophy lecturer who arrives to teach at a small East Coast college preceded by his reputation for eccentricity and womanising. It turns out he’s drunk, depressed and impotent. Two women circle him: fellow professor Rita (Parker Posey), who wants to sleep with him, and student Jill (Emma Stone), who insists, weakly, that her interest in this dark cloud of man is purely platonic. Abe feels useless and directionless. It’s only when, unknown to anyone else, he hatches a plot to commit the perfect crime that he starts to come alive. Only as he intellectualises his way to murder does the jazz properly kick in on the soundtrack.

It all feels pretty familiar: the tortured genius; the younger woman; the plot taking a bold, suffocating turn; murder as an existential debate; the world increasingly closing in on our anti-hero. But there’s something sloppy and sluggish about ‘Irrational Man’, even by Allen’s patchy standards. It is by no means a disgraceful film. At times it feels respectable and uncomplicated, and there’s enough for Allen aficionados to enjoy and unpick. But the energy levels are low, not helped by the early stages of the film being anchored by the mumbling, laconic mess that Phoenix presents.

Luckily, Stone is a reliably lively presence and Phoenix’s performance perks up in tandem with Abe’s enthusiasm. Posey, sadly, is saddled with a character who reflects badly on its creator: an intelligent but drunken woman who’s inexplicably willing to throw herself at Phoenix’s miserable academic. And you need some serious storytelling pizazz – the sort he regularly used to offer – to be able to push through the ludicrous plot that Allen serves up. That’s absent, so ‘Irrational Man’ ends up as a mildly respectable Woody Allen movie rather than a remarkable one.


Release details

Release date:
Friday September 11 2015
96 mins

Cast and crew

Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Emma Stone
Joaquin Phoenix
Parker Posey

Users say (4)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Woody Allen goes over Crime and Punishment as he has done in some of his films before, but in a much lighter, somewhat upbeat manner. It took me a while to realize that Joaquin Phoenix’s philosophy professor, Abe, gives the tone for the film: it was hard to engage with the voice-overs and stagy acting – not uncommon in Allen’s films – in the beginning, reflecting Abe’s passiveness and melancholy. It starts to get interesting when Abe rediscovers joy, getting excited about the ‘perfect murder’. Emma Stone and Parker Posey try to give depth to reasonably flat characters (especially Posey’s professor), but it’s Phoenix's manic renewed vitality that contains the soul of the film.

Despite referring to myself a Woody Allen fan, I've seen little more than half his films.  I was disappointed to read the Guardian and Time Out's reviews, neither particularly complimentary, so I didn't go see Irrational Man thinking it was likely to be good.  I was pleasantly surprised.


I thought both Stone and Pheonix extremely well cast, believable characters.  Parker Posey doesn't get much of mention in any of the reviews, and I don't know why.  I thought she was really good.


This is a well-scripted film, with believeable storyline, and great acting.  It was consistently amusing throughout, with regular chuckles from the rest of the audience.  The scene by the elevator was brilliant - very well-acted and executed.


Oscar winner?  I don't think so. That'd mean giving it 4 stars, but it's worth 7/10 or 3.5 stars (if they could be awarded in halves). 

Like the last Allen film,he uses the same lead and yet again he gives us a mumbling robotic performance..The nubile beauty of Emma Stone is guaranteed to keep the viewers attention.The story is a bit of fluff and there are no laughs.However only Woody Allen can achieve this brevity and lightness of touch to film making.The film radiates with watery light,leafy trees and a quiet joyfulness.The main review states that new ideas are needed.However no director in their 80s is going to come up with novelty.Instead just lightly re-working old ideas.It's's fun with no deep,hidden meanings.3 stars