Irrational Man Blu-ray Review
Abe Lucas drives down the road, pondering morality, choice, murder and the like. He is on his way to begin his position as a philosophy professor in a small New England town. On campus, his name is on the tongues of colleagues and students, with words both good and bad.
Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix, INHERENT VICE) appears misguided. Despite having published a number of acclaimed papers and volunteering time in Darfur and Bangladesh, he can’t help but feel those around him are capable of so much more. And at some point in his life, the purposeful protests stopped and he became a potbellied alcoholic full of “verbal masturbation.” He can quote Kant, Dostoyevsky, Sartre and other great minds, but what good is that if he can’t put any of it into action? Where has the meaning gone?
He seems to find it partly in his relationships with a student, Jill (Emma Stone, who also appeared in Cameron Crowe’s ALOHA this year), and a colleague, Rita (Parker Posey, who recently reprised her role as Fay Grim in Hal Hartley’s NED RIFLE). But it truly makes itself seen when Lucas overhears a conversation in which a woman reveals a local judge will be solely responsible for her losing her children. Lucas decides that he will do something about it—something not so subtly hinted at in the opening voiceover and later at a student party.
The epiphany that Abe comes across—that he can now take his life into his own hands—is a bit misguided (hence the title), but it makes both the character and the movie more fascinating than it might initially seem. What at first comes across as one of those middle-aged-man-finds-redemption-and-life-in-youth-and-beauty stories becomes a tale of a man making unfathomable acts fathomable so one can find his place. This is a crisis far more complex than found in a number of Allen’s recent efforts (excluding, perhaps, those that have earned him Oscar nominations).
Woody Allen’s latest allows him to again present and ponder issues of free will, one’s purpose, the meaning(less) of life, etc. These are themes that have been prominent in his works for his entire career (including his books and plays). Added with the general premise, IRRATIONAL MAN calls to mind one of his best in the past decade, MATCH POINT, and one of his finest in the canon, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. IRRATIONAL MAN may be overly familiar in spots and come off like Allen was low on ideas at the time of writing, but it works on a level that is much welcome.
Like many of Allen’s successful films, IRRATIONAL MAN benefits from a strong cast that knows how to read his words and not sound phony or dumb when relaying the themes. At the forefront is a talented trio in Phoenix, Posey and Stone (who brought some of the only charm to be found in Allen’s previous effort, MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT), a combination that is one of the director’s most rewarding ensembles this decade.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong and colors are healthy.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Dialogue is clean and the music comes through nicely.
On the Red Carpet (3:30): Co-stars Emma Stone and Parker Posey and Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker discuss the movie, cast and Woody Allen.