Woody Allen is probably the most hit and miss director of all-time but then again he has made a film pretty much every year since official debut feature Take the Money and Run in 1969. Like everyone I love Annie Hall but a lot of the Woody films I like the most are the more bitter ones like Stardust Memories or it’s quasi-remake Deconstructing Harry. Some of his best films are also his most oft-kilter like his musical Everyone Says I Love You. His latest film Irrational Man along with the sweet Midnight in Paris are the best films he has done in two decades.
Joaquin Phoenix who really can’t put a foot wrong since he rebirth after that hip-hop career art stunt plays the philosophy professor Abe Lucas. He is an alcoholic and is facing an existential crisis, typical Woody fair and starts spending a lot of time with one of his young students Jill Pollard (Emma Stone). They overhear a woman complaining about a judge who is gonna make her loose her kids. This starts Abe down a path where he starts thinking of how to conduct a moral murder of this judge.
It’s one of Allen’s more serious films in recent years and works a lot better than his vastly overrated Match Point which also dealt with murder. It’s somewhat a repeat of some of the themes from Crimes and Misdemeanors but Allen is a director who often repeats himself over and over again like many auteurs. Phoenix is less mumbly than normal here and gives a characteristic physical but also subtle performance, he seems to have gained some pounds to play the professor. Emma Stone whom I’m a not a massive fan of is relatively charming as Jill and Parker Posey who shockingly hasn’t been in a Woody Allen film before shines here but she will also be in his next as yet untitled film.
It won’t win any new converts to Woody Allen but if you like an existential drama with a strong lead performance you should check it out. I hope this may start another string of good Woody Allen’s films but given his track record of 46 films, it might be another couple of films before that next one good turns up but you never known with Woody. The disc is basically barebones which typical of Woody Allen being against bonus features.
Drama | USA, 2015 | 15 | Warner Bros | 1st February 2016 (UK) | Dir.Woody Allen | Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley, Betsy Aidem | Buy: [DVD]