“Irrational Man” is an intelligent, well-paced and irreverent look at human relationships and the philosophy behind them.
Choosing to live his life shrouded in a cloud of his experiences, Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is an emotionally broken, depressed, drunken philosophy professor. A romantic at heart, he is incapable of feeling or expressing his desires. Turning to well-aged single malt whiskey as his source of inspiration, the misanthropic Abe takes a new teaching assignment at Braylin College in Rhode Island. Jill (Emma Stone), an intelligent student of Abe’s, becomes infatuated with his intelligence and personality.
The impetus for him to effect change is not in Jill’s advances, but rather in an overheard conversation. The sudden change in Abe’s character brings fervent meaning to his life, leading them to satirical consequences where Jill is to forced to face serious realities at the crux of the movie.
Writer-director Allen’s story creates an intelligent atmosphere for the characters to explore each other and themselves, but felt heavy-handed. Allen seems keen to layer his story with details, which are important elements to the end of the film. Phoenix and Stone’s chemistry ultimately balances the story. Darius Khondji’s cinematography beautifully captures the shores of Rhode Island and the idyllic small town life.
Replacing a traditional score, Allen brilliantly injected Abe and Jill’s voice overs with jazzy riffs of The Ramsey Lewis Trio’s “The In Crowd”. Its use throughout the story really supports the upbeat tempo, keeping it well-paced.
The heavy-handedness of the story may be due to a lack of experience with Allen’s oeuvre of movies. Despite this, the nuanced layers of movie worked on so many levels and just like Abe, “Irrational Man” is charming to watch.