Friday, July 24, 2015
The film's irrational man is Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) who is supposed to be an expert in rational thinking because he is a Philosophy professor. However, he is not together unless he conducts his "mental masturbation" teaching in a classroom. He arrives at a small town college with liquor in hand while driving and sticks his belly out when he is standing. But for reasons only Woody Allen can understand, he immediately becomes the romantic interest to two attractive women who are not single.
One of them is a Chemistry professor Rita Richards (Parker Posey) who wants to get out of her unhappy marriage. The other is a straight-A student Jill Pollard (Emma Stone) who claims that she and her devoted boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley) are not exclusive as soon as she meets Abe.
But Abe doesn't seem interested in either of them at first. In fact, he doesn't find anything interesting at all in his life. That suddenly changes at a diner when he overhears a stranger's story about a corrupt civil court judge. His life is suddenly lit up by his philosophically justified idea—the world is a much better place if he murders this judge who he doesn't know. He becomes alive again after he finds his new purpose in life. His impotence problem is gone and his romantic relationships with both women start to flourish.
Woody Allen has created numerous wonderful and complex female characters in the past. By contrast, it's perplexing to see two desperate women falling for a complete loser in this film. He perhaps realizes himself that Abe is a crazy individual that no woman would have laid an eye on, both physically and mentally. To make his story sound reasonable, he constantly lets Jill speak by voice-over to tell us how interesting Abe is without any specifics of why. No matter how innocent Emma Stone's giant eyes appear, we can look into them and see that she doesn't believe in what she is saying either.
The plot development is also extremely sloppy and lacks sophistication or imagination. Things always come together at the right spot at the right time, as if the director has no time to rewrite them to become more reasonable because he needs to get this out due to a looming deadline. When there are a million things to talk about in a living room, his characters will instead discuss the murder which leads to one after another ah-ha moments. While it might be convenient to the storyteller, it's an insult to the viewers' intelligence.
Although the title suggests the film's characters are irrational, it's no excuse for the film to be irrational itself.