A comedic, tidier (and less impressive) MATCH POINT, IRRATIONAL MAN reunites Allen with a narrative in homage to Dostoevsky, and an obnoxious fucking female romantic partner who needs to be shut up at all costs.
The problems are plenty.
From inception, Phoenix's "Abe Lucas" is only Jewish by name default. His troubles are interiorized. A miserable man who has suffered unlucky traumas in his past, the writing and tone of the picture capsulizes Abe more as a charming, laterally broader Cary Grant. We are told Abe overindulges in negative thoughts, alcohol, solitude and Russian literature. The only time we see this for ourselves is in the breadth of his belly distension and lazily propped liquor cask in hand.
|Abe with blousy Rita. Well matched.|
|power play. With the always cutely coiffed and dolled up Jill|
Two love interests waft in and out, deflecting Abe from his self imposed charismatic ennui. Parker Posey as fellow professor Rita; a breezy, sexy prisoner of her own unsatisfying life. And Emma Stone as a precocious student, Jill, inexperienced in life, and Schopenhauring her will to be interesting.
Though Abe quotes past traumas and losses in his life, they are quoted meaninglessly, and without personal depth, as if making conversation. This is how this character is written, and Phoenix personalizes the shallow and charming bibliophile/professor in ways one can't help but admire. Phoenix, Posey and a great supporting play by Peter Scolari, all surpass the rote characterizations and inanity of Allen's conceit.
Early on in the film, as Abe is so offhanded in nature about deep tragedies, any rational person may see the calculation behind the charmingly bookish, nebbishy veneer.
Phoenix allows a depth to his character not clearly enough established or alluded to in the writing.
One experience one cannot avoid in this picture is the irrational performance of Emma Stone.
She shouts her lines affectedly, and her cute, curt performance of love is never convincing. Stone, who I liked in BIRDMAN although I did not care for that film, seems mis directed or mis cast.
Scarlett Johansen she is not. MATCH POINT was so evil and cold all around, the tone and performances cooled together into a viscous gel both crystal clear yet thickly complex. Whenever Stone 's character speaks in IRRATIONAL MAN, I'd ask myself myself if she reads so immature and horrible so her performance indicates her own calculation and machinations under her fresh faced bourgeois veneer.
I'm just not convinced.