Published Jul 23, 2015I'm beginning to be concerned about Woody Allen's moral compass — well, more so, anyway. If one is to read his films as extensions of his multi-faceted personality, then one has got to wonder just how much time Allen spends thinking about murdering other human beings and getting away with it. This is especially true after watching his latest film, Irrational Man, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone.
At first, Irrational Man appears to be just another typical Allen trip. Phoenix plays Abe, a depressed, alcoholic philosophy professor who has come to a Rhode Island Ivy League university to teach for the summer semester. He rambles on about Dostoyevsky and the futility of life while he bounces back and forth between a tepid affair with a fellow professor (Parker Posey, a natural fit for Allen's neurotic tone) and the affections of one of his students (Stone). For reasons unbeknownst to the audience, Abe is the talk of the town, as if no one else of any merit has ever come to town before. The question everyone is asking is whether he will ever shake his funk and realize his true potential. At first it would appear that love will set him free, which is nauseating and clichéd, but happenstance saves Irrational Man from this doomed fate.
After hearing one woman's tragic story by chance at a restaurant, Abe is reinvigorated (as is the film) when he decides it is his new purpose to end the life of the man who is making her life a living hell. The question then becomes whether he will actually go through with it and, if he does, whether he can actually get away with it. And while this is a much more interesting question than whether love is truly transformative or not, it is also a question Allen has asked before (see Match Point, Crimes & Misdemeanors) and answered with much more eloquence than he has here.